October 3, 2022

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Why does moderate starvation during sickness can enhance the activity of immune cells?

Why does moderate starvation during sickness can enhance the activity of immune cells?



 

Why does moderate starvation during sickness can enhance the activity of immune cells?

In critically ill patients with COVID-19, metabolic production of certain high-energy compounds, ketone bodies, is insufficient.

However, two important cell types in the immune system need these energy carriers to effectively fight viruses.

Perhaps this finding explains why some people get sicker than others.

A study led by the University of Bonn in Germany points in at least that direction.   The findings have been published in the journal Nature. They also offer hope for new treatments.

 

Why does moderate starvation during sickness can enhance the activity of immune cells?

When T cells (blue-white spheres) are energized in the form of ketone bodies (blue), they can fight viruses more effectively

 

When we are sick, we often have no appetite. This also has an effect on our metabolism: since it no longer provides carbohydrates, it converts to burning fat. This creates energy-rich molecules called ketone bodies. These may help our bodies cope better with the virus.


At least that’s what the current study says. Professor Christoph Wilhelm from the Institute of Clinical Chemistry and Clinical Pharmacology at the University Hospital Bonn explained: “We found that patients with influenza infection produced a considerable amount of ketone bodies. In contrast, we found almost no increase in patients with Covid-19, at least This is the case in moderate or severe patients.”


Also, surprisingly, people infected with Covid-19 had lower levels of the inflammatory messenger in their blood. This is especially true for interferon-gamma.

It’s a cytokine secreted by a specific group of immune cells — helper T cells — that use it to summon phagocytes and other defense forces of the immune system to fight the virus.

However , in order to efficiently produce interferon-gamma, helper T cells clearly need an adequate supply of ketone bodies.

Without this, they produce less interferon-gamma. In addition, helper T cells also die prematurely.

 

 


Ketone bodies make the immune system stronger

The researchers also found a similar effect in another important group of immune cells, killer T cells.

They also need ketone bodies to function properly and effectively eliminate viruses.

Clearly, ketone bodies promote the function of mitochondria, the metabolic energy reservoirs that power immune cells.

This not only ensures improved energy production, but also provides the molecules needed for interferon production.


On the other hand, without an adequate supply of ketone bodies, killer T cells and helper T cells show signs of exhaustion, and in this depleted state, they can no longer function adequately.

However, the researchers were able to restore immune cells by feeding sick mice a ketogenic diet (a diet low in carbohydrates and protein) or by administering ketone bodies directly.

The animals were then more successful in eliminating the virus and also had significantly less lung damage.

 


Hope for new treatments

Therefore, the results also offer hope for new treatment options – it is possible to enhance the body’s own defenses through targeted dietary changes.

Whether this really works now has to be proven by further research.

The researchers explicitly advise against trying dietary supplements or diets on your own — these may do more harm than good.

The new findings may also be linked to other infections.

They may even help with new strategies to help the body fight tumors.

 

 

 


Reference:

Impaired ketogenesis ties to T cell dysfunction in COVID-19

Why does moderate starvation during sickness can enhance the activity of immune cells?

(source:internet, reference only)


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