Evidence for Two Types of Brown Adipose Tissue in Humans

Nat Med. 2013 May;19(5):631-4. doi: 10.1038/nm.3017. Epub 2013 Apr 21.

Abstract

The previously observed supraclavicular depot of brown adipose tissue (BAT) in adult humans was commonly believed to be the equivalent of the interscapular thermogenic organ of small mammals. This view was recently disputed on the basis of the demonstration that this depot consists of beige (also called brite) brown adipocytes, a newly identified type of brown adipocyte that is distinct from the classical brown adipocytes that make up the interscapular thermogenic organs of other mammals. A combination of high-resolution imaging techniques and histological and biochemical analyses showed evidence for an anatomically distinguishable interscapular BAT (iBAT) depot in human infants that consists of classical brown adipocytes, a cell type that has so far not been shown to exist in humans. On the basis of these findings, we conclude that infants, similarly to rodents, have the bona fide iBAT thermogenic organ consisting of classical brown adipocytes that is essential for the survival of small mammals in a cold environment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / metabolism
  • Adipose Tissue, Brown / physiology*
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Biopsy
  • Body Temperature
  • Cold Temperature
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence