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Curr Drug Targets. 2004 Apr;5(3):241-50.

Adipose tissue as a regulator of energy balance.

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  • 1German Institute of Human Nutrition in Potsdam (DIfE), Arthur-Scheunert Allee 114-116, 14558 Bergholz-Rehbr├╝cke, Germany.


Adipose tissue plays an active role in energy balance because it is not only a lipid storing and mobilizing tissue but consists of functionally specialized tissues able to produce heat (in brown adipose tissue) and to produce or release a vast number of so called adipokines or adipocytokines. These consist of polypeptides but also non-protein factors and are metabolically active molecules belonging to different functional categories like immunity (complement factors, haptoglobin), endocrine function (leptin, sex steroids, various growth factors), metabolic function (fatty acids, adiponectin, resistin), and cardiovascular function (angiotensinogen, PAI-1). Recent advances using genomic and proteomic approaches have identified numerous new adipocyte secreted factors whose function remain to be established. Too little as well as too much adipose tissue leads to metabolic disturbances like insulin resistance. Visceral obesity is especially strongly correlated with the development of diabetes, hypertension and cardio-vascular disease. Thermogenesis in brown adipose tissue is a means to dissipate excess energy, but in adult humans brown fat is very scarce and probably not functional. However, human white adipose tissue contains mesenchymal stem cells, and if these could be stimulated to differentiate into brown adipocytes, increased energy expenditure in white fat could help to shift energy balance towards a more negative state.

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