Fat Isn’t All Bad: Skin Adipocytes Help Protect Against Infections

When it comes to skin infections, a healthy and robust immune response may depend greatly upon what lies beneath. In a new paper published in the January 2, 2015 issue of Science, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine report the surprising discovery that fat cells below the skin help protect us from bacteria.

Richard Gallo, MD, PhD, professor and chief of dermatology at UC San Diego School of Medicine, and colleagues have uncovered a previously unknown role for dermal fat cells, known as adipocytes: They produce antimicrobial peptides that help fend off invading bacteria and other pathogens. … Read the full story from the UC San Diego Newsroom


Dr. Richard Gallo

Dr. Richard Gallo

Richard Gallo, MD, PhD, is professor of medicine and pediatrics and chief of the Division of Dermatology.

Read Science article abstract on PubMed

Visit Dr. Gallo’s laboratory website

Hormone Plays Surprise Role in Fighting Skin Infections

Boosts immune response when vitamin D levels are low

Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) are molecules produced in the skin to fend off infection-causing microbes. Vitamin D has been credited with a role in their production and in the body’s overall immune response, but scientists at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine say a hormone previously associated only with maintaining calcium homeostasis and bone health is also critical, boosting AMP expression when dietary vitamin D levels are inadequate. … Read the full story from the UCSD Newsroom


Dr. Richard GalloThe report comes from Dr. Richard Gallo (pictured at left) and colleagues at UC San Diego, the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System, and UC San Francisco.

Richard L. Gallo, MD, PhD, is professor of medicine and chief of the UCSD Division of Dermatology and the Dermatology section of the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System.

The Department of Medicine coauthors of the study are first author Beda Muehleisen, Carlos Aguilera, and George L. Sen, Division of Dermatology, UC San Diego; Douglas W. Burton, Veterans Administration San Diego Healthcare System; and Leonard J. Deftos, MD, JD, LLM, Veterans Administration San Diego Healthcare System and Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Department of Medicine, UC San Diego.

More information:

  • Read the article in Science Translational Medicine.
    Citation: B. Muehleisen, D. D. Bikle, C. Aguilera, D. W. Burton, G. L. Sen, L. J. Deftos, R. L. Gallo, PTH/PTHrP and Vitamin D Control Antimicrobial Peptide Expression and Susceptibility to Bacterial Skin Infection. Sci. Transl. Med. 4, 135ra66 (2012). DOI:10.1126/scitranslmed.3003759
  • Visit Dr. Gallo’s Laboratory Website

Vitamin D May Help Prevent Skin Infection in Atopic Dermatitis

Oral Vitamin D may correct an immune system defect and boost the defense against skin infection in individuals who have atopic dermatitis, according to a preliminary study from the UCSD Division of Dermatology.
Patients with atopic dermatitis have an immune system defect that results in a deficiency of cathelicidin, one of the body’s own anti-infection peptides.

Dr. Richard Gallo, Dr. Tissa R. Hata, and colleagues have found cathelicidin levels increase in patients who receive daily Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol).

The study is part of the Dermatology Division’s ongoing investigation of the role of the immune system in dermatologic disease.

Ten to twenty percent of children and 1-3% of adults suffer from atopic dermatitis, a chronic skin disorder that causes itching, redness, and scaling. Affected individuals are more vulnerable to skin infections including Staph aureus and herpes.

Richard L. Gallo, M.D., Ph.D.
Richard L. Gallo, M.D., Ph.D.
Photo by Joyce Roberts.


Read the full story
from UC San Diego
Health Sciences Communications


Richard Gallo, M.D., Ph.D., is Professor and Chief of Dermatology at UCSD and Chief of the Dermatology Section at the Veterans Administration San Diego Healthcare System (VASDHS).

Tissa R. Hata, M.D., is Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, Clinical Service Chief for Dermatology at the Perlman Ambulatory Care Center, and Director of the UCSD Dermatology Clinical Trials Unit.

Other Division of Dermatology co-authors are Paul Kotol, B.S., Michelle Jackson, M.D., Meggie Nguyen, B.S., Aimee Paik, M.D., Don Udall, M.D., Kimi Kanada, B.S., Kenshi Yamasaki, M.D., Ph.D., and Doru Alexandrescu, M.D.

Their report is published in the October 3 issue of the Journal of Allergy & Clinical Immunology:

Hata TR, Kotol P, Jackson M, Nguyen M, Paik A, Udall D, Kanada K, Yamasaki K, Alexandrescu D, Gallo RL. Administration of oral vitamin D induces cathelicidin production in atopic individuals. J Clin Allergy Immunol 2008; 122(4): 829-831.

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