Human brown adipose tissue function: insights from current in vivo techniques

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The identification of brown adipose tissue (BAT) as a thermogenic organ in human adults approximately 20 years ago raised the exciting possibility of activating this tissue as a new treatment for obesity and cardiometabolic disease. 18Fluoro-2-deoxyglucose (18F-FDG) combined positron emission tomography and computed tomography (PET/CT) scanning is the most commonly used imaging modality to detect and quantify human BAT activity in vivo. This technique exploits the substantial glucose uptake by BAT during thermogenesis as a marker for BAT metabolism. 18F-FDG PET has provided substantial insights into human BAT physiology, including its regulatory pathways and the effect of obesity and cardiometabolic disease on BAT function. The use of alternative PET tracers and the development of novel techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging, supraclavicular skin temperature measurements, contrast enhanced ultrasound, near infrared spectroscopy and microdialysis have all added complementary information to improve our understanding of human BAT. However, many questions surrounding BAT physiology remains unanswered, highlighting the need for further research and novel approaches to investigate this tissue. This review critically discusses current techniques to assess human BAT function in vivo, the insights gained from these modalities and their limitations. We also discuss other promising techniques in development that will help dissect the pathways regulating human thermogenesis and determine the therapeutic potential of BAT activation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Endocrinology
Early online date18 Aug 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Aug 2023


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