Systems approach to understand adipose inflammation and type 2 diabetes

Systems approach to understand adipose inflammation and type 2 diabetes

Project details

Obesity-induced chronic inflammation mediated by immune cells in the adipose tissue is a major driver of type 2 diabetes. Maintaining the balance between anti- and pro-inflammatory immune cells is crucial for the prevention of adipose tissue inflammation. The balance is tipped in favour of pro-inflammatory cells under obese conditions. We recently identified a cytokine called IL-33, which suppresses adipose tissue inflammation by expanding anti-inflammatory T cells (Vasanthakumar et al, Nature Immunology 2015 16 (5): 544). 

Diverse cell types of the adaptive and innate immune arms regulate adipose tissue inflammation. This project will use a systems approach to understand how these cell types sense the obese state and how they cross talk and co-operate to establish inflammation. This project will employ flow cytometry, and transcriptional and metabolic profiling.

About our research group

Our group investigates how the development and function of immune cells are regulated at the molecular level. In particular, we study the transcriptional, metabolic and cytokine requirements of lymphocytes that play crucial roles in viral infection, vaccination, tumor immunity, type 2 diabetes and autoimmunity. 

Recent findings from our laboratory include, identification of novel tumor immune surveillance mechanisms (Afshar-Sterle et al, Nature Medicine 2014 20(3): 283), discovery of a cytokine with anti-diabetic properties (Vasanthakumar et al, Nature Immunology 2015 16(5): 544) and elucidation of mechanisms underlying anti-viral immunity (Man et al, Nature Immunology 2013 14(11): 1155). 

Since our research is multi-disciplinary, we collaborate with laboratories within the Institute and also work closely with several other national and international institutions.


Schematic of immune cell function
Obesity shifts the immune balance in adipose tissue towards a pro-inflammatory state



Dr Axel Kallies

Dr Axel Kallies in the lab
Laboratory Head
Ajith Vasanthakumar in the lab
Molecular Immunology division

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