Certain fats essential for triggering immune system: S'pore scientists

PHOTO: Certain fats essential for triggering immune system: S'pore scientists

Not all fats are bad for you after all.

An international team led by scientists from Singapore Immunology Network (SIgN) have discovered a special class of fatty molecules essential for stimulating immune cells.

The fats, which are naturally produced in the thymus, work by activating a unique group of early-responding immune cells which protects the body against infection, allergic reactions, autoimmune diseases and cancer.

These immune cells form first line of defence against infectious and foreign agents, and when stimulated, secrete large amounts of biological chemicals.

They also are capable of influencing the responses of other immune cells in the body.

The finding opens up new opportunities in using these stimulatory fats for therapeutic interventions, such as the development of new vaccines and drugs targeted for autoimmune diseases, said the researchers.

"This discovery is a breakthrough for the field of lipid immunity, a new niche area in immunology that SIgN has recently been developing," said Professor Paola Castagnoli, Scientific Director of SIgN.

The team was co-led by Professor Gennaro De Libero and Dr Lucia Mori, Senior Principal Investigators at SIgN, which is an agency under the Agency of Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR).