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Immunity. 2012 Sep 21;37(3):574-87. doi: 10.1016/j.immuni.2012.06.016. Epub 2012 Sep 13.

Adipose tissue invariant NKT cells protect against diet-induced obesity and metabolic disorder through regulatory cytokine production.

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  • 1Hematology/Oncology, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02215, USA.


Invariant natural killer T (iNKT) cells are evolutionarily conserved innate T cells that influence inflammatory responses. We have shown that iNKT cells, previously thought to be rare in humans, were highly enriched in human and murine adipose tissue, and that as adipose tissue expanded in obesity, iNKT cells were depleted, correlating with proinflammatory macrophage infiltration. iNKT cell numbers were restored in mice and humans after weight loss. Mice lacking iNKT cells had enhanced weight gain, larger adipocytes, fatty livers, and insulin resistance on a high-fat diet. Adoptive transfer of iNKT cells into obese mice or in vivo activation of iNKT cells via their lipid ligand, alpha-galactocylceramide, decreased body fat, triglyceride levels, leptin, and fatty liver and improved insulin sensitivity through anti-inflammatory cytokine production by adipose-derived iNKT cells. This finding highlights the potential of iNKT cell-targeted therapies, previously proven to be safe in humans, in the management of obesity and its consequences.

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