Brown Fat Depot Similar to Human’s Identified in Mice; Study May Reveal Roles of Brown Fat in Humans

When it gets cold around you, your body turns up the heat to maintain its normal temperature. The heat is produced by brown adipose tissue, or brown fat, which also plays a role in how the body uses glucose and fat. However, scientists do not completely understand how brown fat carries out its functions both in health and disease, in part because of the lack of an appropriate animal model. In a paper published online on June 2, 2017 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation Insight, a team of researchers from several institutions, including Baylor College of Medicine, has filled this gap with the discovery that mice also have brown fat deposits similar to the largest depot found in people. The discovery opens the door to research that might lead to new ways of using brown fat to treat metabolic conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes in the future. The open-access JCI Insight article is titled Identification and Characterization of a Supraclavicular Brown Adipose Tissue in Mice.” "In addition to white adipose tissue, or white fat, people have brown fat, an important contributor to the body's energy balance via the generation of body heat and the participation in metabolic processes," said senior author Dr. Miao-Hsueh Chen, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Nutrition at Baylor College of Medicine and the USDA/ARS Children's Nutrition Research Center at Baylor and Texas Children's Hospital. Brown fat contains adipocytes, cells that are rich in small fat-filled droplets and in energy-producing structures called mitochondria.
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