NK Cells

One key aspect of our research is to understand the effects of obesity on immune surveillance, and the effects of the immune system on obesity. The global obesity epidemic and the realization that chronic, low-grade inflammation is a characteristic feature of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease triggered a massive surge in studying whole-body metabolism. However, in addition to metabolic disease, obesity is associated with an increased risk of cancer and infections A striking 49% of certain cancers are attributed to obesity, and it is expected that obesity will soon replace smoking as the leading preventable cause of cancer. It has been proposed that increased levels of insulin, hormones, and adipokines are responsible for the increased cancer risk due to their direct effect on tumour growth and proliferation. However we believe that obesity also impacts normal immune surveillance, which may be responsible for the increased cancer and infection risks in obesity. We focus on natural killer (NK) cells, which are the body’s first defense against infections and cancer. Defects in NK cells can lead to fatal infections and increased development of cancer.