NEW HAVEN — A new study from researchers at Yale offers a possible way to treat why the belly fat people carry around their organs increases with age, according to the university.
The finding, gleaned during a study led by Vishwa Deep Dixit, the Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professor of Comparative Medicine and of Immunobiology at Yale, “could offer new treatment possibilities for improving metabolic health, thereby reducing the likelihood for diseases like diabetes and atherosclerosis that stem from inflammation,” officials said in a release.
“Previous work found that as people age, their body’s ability to generate energy by burning the belly fat is reduced. Consequently, fat that surrounds the internal organs increases in the elderly. Dixit’s lab had found that the immune cells necessary to the fat-burning process, called macrophages, were still active but their overall numbers declined as belly fat increased with aging,” officials said. “This latest study found that something else is happening as well. Adipose B cells in belly fat unexpectedly proliferated as animals aged, contributing to increased inflammation and metabolic decline.”
When working correctly, some Adipose B cells “expand as needed to protect the body from infection,” producing antibodies, and then “contract to baseline.”
But as tested animals aged, these cells proliferated, “contributing to increased inflammation and metabolic decline,” and did not contract in their belly fat, officials said.
“This predisposes an animal to diabetes and metabolic dysfunction like inability to burn fat,” Dixit said in the release.
Researchers found they could guard against this effect by reducing the signals the cells received from nearby macrophages — “a type of white blood cell that surrounds and kills microorganisms, removes dead cells, and stimulates the action of other immune system cells,” according to the National Cancer Institute — and removing Adipose B cells.
Dixit said that finding “could lead to exciting possibilities for repurposing drugs to target these dysfunctional adipose B cells for improved health outcomes and to protect against metabolic disease.”
“The other Yale authors of the study are Christina Camell, postdoctoral associate; Aileen Lee, doctoral candidate; Emily Goldberg, postdoctoral associate; Olga Spadaro, research associate; Yun-Hee Youm, associate research scientist; and Nancy Ruddle ’68, professor emerita and senior research associate in the Division of Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases in the School of Public Health,” officials said in the release.