It’s very easy to disparage fat and fat cells, especially in our weight-conscious culture. However, fat cells might deserve more credit than we give them. Fat cells can help store energy and provide our bodies with insulation. And now, research from Paul Martin’s group at the University of Bristol has shown that fat cells can move around within body compartments to help heal wounds.
Researchers used a laser to make small injuries in developing fruit flies. They then tracked the movement of surrounding cells, showing that fat cells migrated toward the wound, helping to seal it off to prevent further infection. The fat cells even helped out other cells, such as macrophages, which eat up the wound debris.
But how do the fat cells get to where they have to go? Fat cells lack a tail that can propel them along, like sperm cells have. Instead, the fat cells migrate using an unusual mechanism that involves changing the internal structural components of the cell. By changing these structural components, fat cells can change their shape in real time, enabling them to squeeze through tight spots and make their way towards wounds.
This research raises as many questions as it answers. How do fat cells know where to go? And how do they know how to position themselves around an injury? One thing is clear – fat cells are probably doing more than we think.
Managing Correspondent: Radhika Agarwal
Original Article: “Fat Body Cells Are Motile and Actively Migrate to Wounds to Drive Repair and Prevent Infection,” Developmental Cell
Media Coverage: “Watch a wound close with the help of fat cells,” Science Magazine