Friday 13 November 2020

Fats fighting back against bacteria


Droplets of fat inside our cells are helping the body's own defence system fight back against infection, University of Queensland researchers have discovered.


It was previously thought that bacteria were merely using the lipid droplets to feed on, but we have discovered these fatty droplets are involved in the battle between the pathogens and our cells. Fat is part of the cell's arsenal -- cells manufacture toxic proteins, package them into the lipid droplets, then fire them at the intruders.


This is a new way that cells are protecting themselves, using fats as a covert weapon, and giving us new insights into ways of fighting infection.


With antibiotic-resistant superbugs on the rise, researchers are determined to find alternative ways to fight infection.


One possibility is ramping up the body's natural defences.


Researchers showed that upon infection of white blood cells called macrophages, lipid droplets move to the part of the macrophage where the bacteria are present," Professor Sweet said. The bacterial infection also changed the way that white blood cells used energy.


Most people thought the lipid droplets were 'blobs of fat', only useful for energy storage but now we are seeing that they act as metabolic switches in the cell, defend against infection and much more -- there are now entire scientific conferences of researchers working on them.




Douglas R. Green. Immiscible immunity. Science, 2020 DOI: 10.1126/science.abe7891


Posted by Dr. Tim Sandle, Pharmaceutical Microbiology Resources (

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