Two types of adipose tissue can be distinguished histologically and functionally: white (WAT) and brown adipose tissue (BAT). Whereas BAT is specialized in the production of heat, WAT stores excess energy as triacylglycerols. BAT is present throughout life in rodents, whereas in humans it was thought to involute rapidly postnatally, having essentially disappeared within the first years after birth.
However, positron emission tomography has provided evidence that adults retain metabolically active BAT depots that can be induced in response to cold and sympathetic nervous system activation.
These findings together with the recent identification of specific molecular determinants (PRDM16 and BMP7) activating brown adipogenesis highlights BAT as a potential relevant target for pharmacological and gene expression manipulation to combat human obesity.
CITATION Trends Pharmacol Sci. 2009 Aug;30(8):387-96. doi: 10.1016/j.tips.2009.05.003