An unusual type of immune cell called gamma delta T cells could be used to treat and prevent type 2 diabetes caused by obesity.
Research was conducted on mice by the Department of Pathology and Immunology at Baylor College of Medicine in Housto, Texas, with the results published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology.
Deficiency of gamma delta T cells
One of two divided groups of mice possessed an altered gene that meant they were deficient in gamma delta T cells. The second group did not have this deficiency.
A Western-type diet of rich saturated fats and sugar was fed to the mice to induce obesity, with the mice lacking gamma delta T cells having reduced inflammation in the liver, skeletal muscle and adipose tissue – a main type of connecting tissue.
The normal mice showed signs of low-grade inflammation in these organs, while obese mice lacking gamma delta T cells had a reduction in systematic insulin resistance when compared to normal mice.
Link to type 2 diabetes
The research suggests that gamma delta T cells assist in the obesity-induced accumulation of macrophages, a type of white blood cell which is linked to inflammation being promoted in fat tissue.
This inflammation occurring during obesity is a known risk factor for type 2 diabetes and obesity, with scientists optimistic new studies of gamma delta T cells will reveal more about how to treat and prevent obesity-related type 2 diabetes.
“These new studies identify a new potentially critical piece of the immune puzzle in the control of the damaging inflammation associated with obesity,” said John Wherry, Ph.D., Deputy Editor of the Journal of Leukocyte Biology.
“Obesity is one of the large public health and growing medical problems in developed countries. The more we learn about obesity, the more we realize that an intimate connection exists between adipose tissue, inflammation and the immune system.”

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