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Dis Model Mech. 2012 Sep;5(5):588-94. doi: 10.1242/dmm.009662.

The adipose organ at a glance.

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Department of Experimental and Clinical Medicine, Azienda Ospedali Riuniti-University of Ancona (Politecnica delle Marche), 60020 Ancona, Italy.


The main parenchymal cells of the adipose organ are adipocytes. White adipocytes store energy, whereas brown adipocytes dissipate energy for thermogenesis. These two cell types with opposing functions can both originate from endothelial cells, and co-exist in the multiple fat depots of the adipose organ - a feature that I propose is crucial for this organ's plasticity. This poster review provides an overview of the adipose organ, describing its anatomy, cytology, physiological function and histopathology in obesity. It also highlights the remarkable plasticity of the adipose organ, explaining theories of adipocyte transdifferentiation during chronic cold exposure, physical exercise or lactation, as well as in obesity. White-to-brown adipocyte transdifferentiation is of particular medical relevance, because animal data indicate that higher amounts of brown adipose tissue are positively associated with resistance to obesity and its co-morbidities, and that 'browning' of the adipose organ curbs these disorders.

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