Irish scientists believe they have reached a pivotal point in their research into the battle against obesity.

The research carried out by Trinity College Dublin, St Vincent's Hospitaland Harvard University found that a type of anti-tumor immune cell protects against obesity and the metabolic syndrome that leads to diabetes.

They have discovered that a lipid, “aGC”, can bring a major improvement to metabolism, weight loss and fatty liver disease. It can also reverse diabetes.

Their results show that immune cells known to be protective against malignancy are lost when people become obese. However they are restored with weight loss.

These invariant natural killer T-cells (iNKT) had been thought to be rare in humans until work found they were plentiful in human omental fat.

Dr.  Lydia Lynch is from Trinity College Dublin said “We then found a large population of iNKT cells in fat tissue from mice.

“Now we have identified a role for these cells in the regulation of body weight and the metabolic state, likely by regulating inflammation in adipose tissue” she added.

Their work has been published in the medical journal “Immunity”.