The role of adipose tissue in inflammatory bowel diseases

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Abstract

Purpose of review

The occurrence of creeping fat wrapping segments of inflamed gut represents a characteristic yet incompletely understood hallmark of Crohn's disease. Over the last decade, numerous studies have provided a limited understanding of this feature. Still, deciphering the detailed mechanisms and the pathophysiologic relevance of the interplay between creeping fat, barrier function and intestinal inflammation will be the aim of future studies.

Recent findings

The last 18 months have substantially contributed to this field, starting with an elegant three-dimensional study revealing B cell aggregates around lymphatic vessels embedded in the mesenteric fat, thus bringing back the idea that Crohn's disease might represent a ‘lymphatic disease’. Furthermore, studies on a cellular level elucidated the interplay of mesenteric adipocytes, immune cells and intestinal epithelial cells. Last, imaging studies provide evidence indicating that changes depicted by computed tomography within the mesenteric fat compartment rather than of the bowel wall are predictive for the presence of endoscopic lesions. This underlines the impact of mesenteric changes on Crohn's disease activity.

Summary

The findings of the last 18 months further contribute to solving the puzzle that will ultimately reveal the role of the mesenteric fat tissue in the control of intestinal immunity and inflammation.

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