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Is obesity an inflammatory illness? Role of low-grade inflammation and macrophage infiltration in human white adipose tissue

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There are at least two scientific evidences of human obesity as a chronic inflammatory illness: first, the well-described moderate increase of inflammatory factors in the circulation in obese subjects, and second, the recent identification of macrophage cells infiltrating the white adipose tissue (WAT). These observations led to a revision of the physiopathology of obesity and its co-morbidities. It has been suggested that the ‘low-grade’ inflammatory state associates with metabolic and cardiovascular complications of obesity. Weight loss is able to improve this inflammatory state by both significantly decreasing circulating inflammatory molecules and macrophage cell infiltration in WAT depots. However, the mechanisms of WAT macrophage recruitment into the adipose tissue and their role in obesity complications have not been defined. This review aims to point out the knowledge on inflammatory cytokines associated with obesity and focuses on macrophage infiltration in human WAT, discussing their recruitment and role. The interactions of macrophages with adipocytes will certainly be the subject of intense investigations in the future.

Keywords: Inflammation; macrophage; obesity; white adipose tissue

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: October 1, 2006


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