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Belly Fat might be of Benefit

Belly Fat might be of Benefit

(epharmanews)- The problems someone with a fat belly faces everyday are just too many ـــ from fitting into their jeans to moderate or severe health risks. However, scientists say that this extra fat around the belly might have some benefit.

This new study, published in PLoS ONE, suggests that a particular kind of stomach fat, previously thought to serve little purpose, may in fact play an important role in regulating the immune system.

Researchers at Loyola University Chicago believe that it could lead to new drugs being developed for organ transplant patients and patients with auto-immune diseases such as lupus and Crohn's disease.

The stomach fat that the researchers identified is the omentum which is a sheet of tissue that provides a protective cushion to the stomach, to which it is attached to, and to thee intestines, in front of which it hangs down. The omentum is one of the main fat-storage depots in the body and thickens as fat accumulates there, expanding the skin depending on how much fat is being carried.

"It is shaped like an apron and can stretch like pizza dough," explained Makio Iwashima, an associate professor in the university's Department of Microbiology and Immunology, one of the scientists behind the discovery.

"Although its physiological function was not clearly understood, doctors have known for many years that attaching omentum to damaged organs helped the tissue to heal - a procedure known as 'omentum transposition'," he said.

This study, conducted on mice, shows that the omentum contains three types of cells that play a major role in tissue healing: adult stem cells, cells that reduce acute inflammation, and cells that prevent unnecessary immune responses.

"We now have evidence that the omentum is not just fat sitting in the belly," said Iwashima.

"Based on these data, we propose that the major function of omentum is to recruit and expand cells that specialise in tissue healing and regeneration," he said.

"We think our findings will help the development of effective methods to promote tissue healing and reduce unwanted immune responses that cause autoimmune disorders or rejection of transplanted organs."

It is hoped in the future new drugs can be developed with fewer side effects than the immune-suppressing drugs that are currently available.

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Prepared by: Hasan Zaytoon

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