Three-Dimensional Adipocyte Culture as a Model to Study Cachexia-Induced White Adipose Tissue Remodeling

J Vis Exp. 2021 Jan 18;(167). doi: 10.3791/61853.


Cancer cachexia (CC) presents itself as a syndrome with multiple manifestations, causing a marked multi-organ metabolic imbalance. Recently, cachectic wasting has been proposed to be stimulated by several inflammatory mediators, which may disrupt the integrative physiology of adipose tissues and other tissues such as the brain and muscle. In this scenario, the tumor can survive at the host's expense. In recent clinical research, the intensity of depletion of the different fat deposits has been negatively correlated with the patient's survival outcome. Studies have also shown that various metabolic disorders can alter white adipose tissue (WAT) remodeling, especially in the early stages of cachexia development. WAT dysfunction resulting from tissue remodeling is a contributor to overall cachexia, with the main modifications in WAT consisting of morpho-functional changes, increased adipocyte lipolysis, accumulation of immune cells, reduction of adipogenesis, changes in progenitor cell population, and the increase of "niches" containing beige/brite cells. To study the various facets of cachexia-induced WAT remodeling, particularly the changes progenitor cells and beige remodeling, two-dimensional (2D) culture has been the first option for in vitro studies. However, this approach does not adequately summarize WAT complexity. Improved assays for the reconstruction of functional AT ex vivo help the comprehension of physiological interactions between the distinct cell populations. This protocol describes an efficient three-dimensional (3D) printing tissue culture system based on magnetic nanoparticles. The protocol is optimized for investigating WAT remodeling induced by cachexia induced factors (CIFs). The results show that a 3D culture is an appropriate tool for studying WAT modeling ex vivo and may be useful for functional screens to identify bioactive molecules for individual adipose cell populations applications and aid the discovery of WAT-based cell anticachectic therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Adipocytes / metabolism
  • Adipocytes / pathology*
  • Adipose Tissue, White / pathology*
  • Animals
  • Cachexia / pathology*
  • Carcinoma, Lewis Lung / pathology
  • Cell Culture Techniques / methods*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Culture Media, Conditioned / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Models, Biological*
  • Nanoparticles / chemistry
  • Perilipin-1 / metabolism
  • Spheroids, Cellular / pathology
  • Stromal Cells / pathology
  • Uncoupling Protein 1 / metabolism


  • Culture Media, Conditioned
  • Perilipin-1
  • Ucp1 protein, mouse
  • Uncoupling Protein 1