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The outliers become a stampede as immunometabolism reaches a tipping point


Barbara S. Nikolajczyk
Department of Microbiology
Boston University School of Medicine
72 East Concord Street
Boston, MA 02118, USA
Tel.: +1 617 638 7019
Fax: +1 617 638 4286


Summary:  Obesity and Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2D) are characterized by pro-inflammatory alterations in the immune system including shifts in leukocyte subset differentiation and in cytokine/chemokine balance. The chronic, low-grade inflammation resulting largely from changes in T-cell, B-cell, and myeloid compartments promotes and/or exacerbates insulin resistance (IR) that, together with pancreatic islet failure, defines T2D. Animal model studies show that interruption of immune cell-mediated inflammation by any one of several methods almost invariably results in the prevention or delay of obesity and/or IR. However, anti-inflammatory therapies have had a modest impact on established T2D in clinical trials. These seemingly contradictory results indicate that a more comprehensive understanding of human IR/T2D-associated immune cell function is needed to leverage animal studies into clinical treatments. Important outstanding analyses include identifying potential immunological checkpoints in disease etiology, detailing immune cell/adipose tissue cross-talk, and defining strengths/weaknesses of model organism studies to determine whether we can harness the promising new field of immunometabolism to curb the global obesity and T2D epidemics.