Obesity, defined as an excessive increase in white adipose tissue (WAT), is a global health epidemic. In obesity, WAT expands by increased adipocyte size (hypertrophy) and number (hyperplasia). The location and cellular mechanisms of WAT expansion greatly affect the pathogenesis of obesity. However, the cellular and molecular mechanisms regulating adipocyte size, number, and depot-dependent expansion in vivo remain largely unknown. This perspective summarizes previous work addressing adipocyte number in development and obesity and discusses recent advances in the methodologies, genetic tools, and characterization of in vivo adipocyte precursor cells allowing for directed study of hyperplastic WAT growth in vivo.
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