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Open Access Highly Accessed Review

Targeting adipose tissue

Bodo Haas1*, Paul Schlinkert2, Peter Mayer1 and Niels Eckstein1

Author Affiliations

1 Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices, Kurt-Georg-Kiesinger-Allee 3, Bonn, 53175, Germany

2 University of Salzburg, Molecular Biology, Hellbrunnerstraße 34, Salzburg, 5020, Austria

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Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome 2012, 4:43  doi:10.1186/1758-5996-4-43

Published: 27 October 2012

Abstract

Two different types of adipose tissues can be found in humans enabling them to respond to starvation and cold: white adipose tissue (WAT) is generally known and stores excess energy in the form of triacylglycerol (TG), insulates against cold, and serves as a mechanical cushion. Brown adipose tissue (BAT) helps newborns to cope with cold. BAT has the capacity to uncouple the mitochondrial respiratory chain, thereby generating heat rather than adenosine triphosphate (ATP). The previously widely held view was that BAT disappears rapidly after birth and is no longer present in adult humans. Using positron emission tomography (PET), however, it was recently shown that metabolically active BAT occurs in defined regions and scattered in WAT of the adult and possibly has an influence on whole-body energy homeostasis. In obese individuals adipose tissue is at the center of metabolic syndrome. Targeting of WAT by thiazolidinediones (TZDs), activators of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ (PPARγ) a ‘master’ regulator of fat cell biology, is a current therapy for the treatment of type 2 diabetes. Since its unique capacity to increase energy consumption of the body and to dissipate surplus energy as heat, BAT offers new perspectives as a therapeutic target for the treatment of obesity and associated diseases such as type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Recent discoveries of new signaling pathways of BAT development give rise to new therapeutic possibilities in order to influence BAT content and activity.

Keywords:
‘Brite’ adipocytes; Brown adipose tissue; Positron emission tomography; Thermogenesis; Transdifferentiation; UCP1; White adipose tissue