Causes of metaflammation

The discovery of a new form of inflammation in the early 1990s led to a flurry of research interest into its causes. This has been largely concentrated around immediate or ‘proximal’ causes, and seems to have missed the bigger-picture explanation. Yet the implications of these findings for a broader perspective on causality, as well as an underlying basis for much chronic disease, are immense. 

The story begins in 1993, when a group of Harvard researchers discovered a form of low-grade, systemic inflammation associated with expanding fat cells. For some time, the implication of this was a causal link between obesity and this type of inflammation.

Over a decade later, the lead researcher on the project, Turkish molecular biologist Dr Gökhan Hotamisligil, broadened his perspective to associate ‘metaflammation’, as he called it because of its links with the metabolic system, with a possible range of other causes.