Infographic: The Omentum’s Role in Health and Disease
Infographic: The Omentum’s Role in Health and Disease

Infographic: The Omentum’s Role in Health and Disease

Belly fat helps fight infection, but is also a common site of metastasis.

Oct 1, 2018
Selene Meza-Perez, Troy D. Randall

The body’s main deposit of abdominal fat hangs like an apron over the organs of the abdomen. This adipose tissue plays important immune roles, but can also serve as a source of chronic inflammation in obese individuals, possibly contributing to metabolic syndrome. The omentum is also a common site of ovarian cancer metastasis.

© catherine delphia

The omentum’s double-edged immune functions

Fat-associated lymphoid clusters, or milky spots, filter abdominal fluid. Collections of immune cells look for signs of pathogenic invaders and internal damage and mount appropriate responses. In obese individuals, however, these cells can become over active, leading to chronic inflammation and autoimmune reactivity.


© catherine delphia

Fighting pathogens

Bacteria in the peritoneal cavity are filtered by the milky spots of the omentum. These lymph-like structures expand as B cells (pink) become activated, proliferate, and produce antibodies against the bacteria.

Immunity gone awry in obesity

In obesity, the adipocytes become engorged with fat, causing stress and even death. T cells (purple) become activated by self-antigens and produce inflammatory cytokines. These cytokines activate macrophages and damage tissue, thereby exacerbating inflammation.

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