Role Brown Fat in Humans Workshop

Report on: Exploring the Role Brown Fat in Humans

role brown fat

NIH Brown Fat Conference

February 25 – 26, 2014 Hosted by National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)

“A workshop focused on elucidating the roles of recently described brown and beige fat or brite fat in people. Speakers will describe state-of-the-art technology for monitoring human brown adipose tissue (hBAT) mass and function, and present recent basic and clinical data.” – Agenda

An important new workshop in February 2014 brought together many leading human brown adipose (hBAT) researchers to exchange information and discuss the role of brown fat in humans. Organized by Aaron Cypess, Joslin Diabetes Center – Harvard University, Carol Haft, NIDDK, Houchun Harry Hu, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and Maren Laughlin, NIDDK, the goal of the meeting was to review important state-of-the-art technology to measure and monitor brown fat, and present the latest information on clinical studies of brown fat.

Only six years have passed since scientists published the discovery that active brown adipose tissue existed in adult humans. Data from PET scans showing a “new” organ convinced the scientific community that brown fat was something exciting to be studies. But the role brown fat     in humans plays is uncertain. Many efforts are underway to look at how much brown fat and beige fat people have and what will increase brown fat. Even when science understands how much brown fat humans have and how we can create more brown fat, it is useless if we do not know how to activate it to trigger its ability to fight obesity.

The conference agenda on the role brown fat role in humans covered important developments in:

  • The function and importance of brown adipose tissue
  • Measurement of human brown fat activity with MRI  (going beyond the limits of PET scans)
  • Brown fat and beige fat in human metabolism
  • Targeting brown fat for therapies for human health
  • Future directions of human brown adipose tissue research

The most interesting information from the workshop is found in the “posters” or brief summaries of current studies on the role brown fat in humans. There were 47 posters presented and over a dozen were called out as “hot topics” for additional discussion.

Here are some highlights from the posters presented that show the exciting and broad areas where brown fat activation shows promise in improving health:

  1.  Szentirmai, Eva, Brown Adipose Tissue and Sleep Regulation.
  2. Akimov, E.B., Brown Adipose Tissue and Aerobic Performance of Athletes.
  3. Blondin, Denis, Acute Cold Exposure Elicits Increases in BAT Oxidative Metabolism in Individuals with Type 2 Diabetes.
  4. Broeders, Evie PM, Brown Adipose Tissue Activity and Thyroid Hormone in Adult Humans.
  5. Chondronikola, Maria, Brown Adipose Tissue Improves Glucose Metabolism and Whole Body Insulin Sensitivity in Humans.
  6. Cypess, Aaron M., Mild Intermittent Cooling of Mice is Sufficient to Increase the Thermogenic Capacity of the Adipose Tissue Deposits.

Check back regularly as we provide a summary of each of the above posters in the role of brown fat in humans.


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