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Cytokine treatment promotes weight loss by 'sweating' fat | Penn Today - Penn Today

Health Sciences

A seemingly unremarkable observation—greasy hair—showed Penn researchers how the immune system could be targeted to reverse obesity.

Treating obesity with the cytokine known as TSLP led to significant abdominal fat and weight loss compared to controls, according to new research published in Science from researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine. Unexpectedly, the fat loss was not associated with decreased food intake or faster metabolism. Instead, the researchers discovered that TSLP stimulated the immune system to release lipids through the skin’s oil-producing sebaceous glands.

Cross section of a hair follicle surrounded by cells. Penn Medicine researchers discovered that obese mice were able to shed 40% of their body weight by secreting fat through their skin. (Image: Penn Medicine News)

“This was a completely unforeseen finding, but we’ve demonstrated that fat loss can be achieved by secreting calories from the skin in the form of energy-rich sebum,” says principal investigator Taku Kambayashi, an associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine, who led the study with fourth-year medical student Ruth Choa. “We believe that we are the first group to show a non-hormonal way to induce this process, highlighting an unexpected role for the body’s immune system.”

The animal model findings, Kambayashi says, support the possibility that increasing sebum production via the immune system could be a strategy for treating obesity in people.

Read more at Penn Medicine News.