Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Inside Wounded Flies, Fat Cells Race to the Rescue

It has always been thought that fat cells live a sedentary lifestyle. Since fat cells
 are usually much bigger than other cells, it has been thought that they do not move 
much. A team at the University of Bristol in Britain, headed by Anna Franz, has 
evidence to suggest otherwise. She  studied the immune response in fruit flies under
 a microscope.
Dr. Franz and her colleagues used a laser to make small wounds on the thoraxes 
of the fruit flies. She observed cloud-like shadows moving to a lesion on a wounded 
insect. They observed that not only were the fat cells arriving at the site of the wound, 
but they were also performing vital functions. The researchers observed how the fat 
cells used their mass to plug the hole created. They also observed the fat cells
 pushing the harmful debris to the edge where immune cells were waiting for them. 
The fat cells also created a microbial substance that could fight off infection and 
promote healing.
The fat cells’ form of locomotion was one that was not expected to be seen.
 They use actin and myosin proteins typically found in muscle cells as a 
means to their locomotion. The researchers wanted to confirm that actin and myosin 
were the modes of locomotion. They created genetically modified cells where those
proteins were inactive. They then created a lesion and observed no movement on their 
own. The researchers are unsure what tells the fat cells to go to the site of injury. The 
researchers ruled out the theory that the immune cells draw them in. They created 
mice that were lacking immune cells, they still observed fat cells moving to the site. 
Other studies have suggested that fat cells may be responsible for more than just 
energy and insulation. Such studies point to fat also helping in tissue repair and 
immune responses. If the researchers observe a similar response in vertebrates and 
humans it could create a very lucrative vanity-driven industry, as a lot of people would 
pay to have fat move to otherplaces on their body.

Posted by: Zane Ruehrwein (3)


  1. How fascinating it is to learn that fat cells have more functions than just providing energy! It is very interesting to learn that they assist in clearing out wounded cells in fruit flies. Did the article state if they were doing or going to do further research on other model systems? It will be interesting to see what new discoveries will be made and if one day it will be possible to manipulate fat cells to move from one place to the other. Wouldn’t that be the dream!

    -Kamilla Leao (2)

    1. Hi Kamilla, the article does say they are working to replicate the experiment on vertebrates. I am curious as well if they will have similar findings.

      Zane Ruehrwein(3)

  2. Fat cells using actin and myosin as a form of locomotion? That's crazy and I never would have expected it. From other classes I'm familiar with the process of skeletal contraction involving a neuron depolarizing a muscle membrane to then cause the binding of actin and myosin which eventually leads to muscle contraction. But I'm just confused on how this process could be use by fat cells, seeing as it doesn't appear that they have a neuron depolarizing them in order to cause the binding and contraction in the first place.

    -Michael Magnant (3)