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HeConnection-InformedCells from fatty abdominal lining show promise for new treatments for autoimmune problems.

A fatty membrane in the belly long believed to serve little purpose may actually play an important role in immune system regulation, according to a new study using mouse cells.

The finding might one day lead to new drugs for organ-transplant patients and people with autoimmune diseases such as lupus and Crohn’s disease, said the researchers, from the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

The membrane, called omentum, lines the abdominal cavity and covers most abdominal organs; it also is a repository for fat tissue. In lab experiments with cells from mice, the researchers found that omentum cells appear to secrete a substance that can reduce the activity of the immune system.

“We now have evidence that the omentum is not just fat sitting in the belly,” the study’s corresponding author, Makio Iwashima, an associate professor in the microbiology and immunology department, said in a university news release.

The finding could aid the development of new drugs that would suppress the immune system with fewer side effects than the current drugs used to treat organ-transplant patients and people with autoimmune diseases, in which the immune system attacks the body, the researchers said.

The researchers also found that the omentum contains a type of stem cell that travels to the site of an injury and helps regenerate tissue.

Research involving animals should be considered preliminary because the results often don’t have implications for humans.

Health-e-Solutions comment: We already know that the majority of the immune system is in the gut. It appears that the belly fat surrounding organs is also in play when it comes to immunity. Since type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease, this is of great interest. Healing the gut is paramount to a healthy immune system. In a future study they may find that the type and amount of fat found in the omentum has an impact on its proper immune function. I would think a healthy lifestyle would also aid in the health of the omentum.

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