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Front Physiol. 2016 Apr 19;7:129. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2016.00129. eCollection 2016.

Brown Adipose Tissue Is Linked to a Distinct Thermoregulatory Response to Mild Cold in People.

Author information

1
Metabolism Unit, Shriners Hospitals for Children-GalvestonTX, USA; Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health, University of Texas Medical BranchGalveston, TX, USA; Division of Rehabilitation Sciences, Department of Nutrition and Metabolism, University of Texas Medical BranchGalveston, TX, USA; Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Harokopio University of AthensGreece.
2
Division of Rehabilitation Sciences, Department of Nutrition and Metabolism, University of Texas Medical BranchGalveston, TX, USA; Institute for Translational Sciences, University of Texas Medical BranchGalveston, TX, USA; Sealy Center on Aging, University of Texas Medical BranchGalveston, TX, USA; Department of Internal Medicine, University of Texas Medical BranchGalveston, TX, USA.
3
Metabolism Unit, Shriners Hospitals for Children-GalvestonTX, USA; Department of Surgery, University of Texas Medical BranchGalveston, TX, USA.
4
Metabolism Unit, Shriners Hospitals for Children-GalvestonTX, USA; Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health, University of Texas Medical BranchGalveston, TX, USA; Division of Rehabilitation Sciences, Department of Nutrition and Metabolism, University of Texas Medical BranchGalveston, TX, USA.
5
Department of Interventional Radiology, University of Texas Medical Branch Galveston, TX, USA.
6
Metabolism Unit, Shriners Hospitals for Children-GalvestonTX, USA; Sealy Center on Aging, University of Texas Medical BranchGalveston, TX, USA.
7
Quebec Heart and Lung Research Institute Centre Quebec, QC, Canada.
8
Department of Nuclear Medicine, University of Texas Medical Branch Galveston, TX, USA.
9
Metabolism Unit, Shriners Hospitals for Children-GalvestonTX, USA; Division of Rehabilitation Sciences, Department of Nutrition and Metabolism, University of Texas Medical BranchGalveston, TX, USA; Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, Harokopio University of AthensGreece; Institute for Translational Sciences, University of Texas Medical BranchGalveston, TX, USA; Sealy Center on Aging, University of Texas Medical BranchGalveston, TX, USA; Department of Internal Medicine, University of Texas Medical BranchGalveston, TX, USA; Department of Surgery, University of Texas Medical BranchGalveston, TX, USA.

Abstract

Brown adipose tissue (BAT) plays an important role in thermoregulation in rodents. Its role in temperature homeostasis in people is less studied. To this end, we recruited 18 men [8 subjects with no/minimal BAT activity (BAT-) and 10 with pronounced BAT activity (BAT+)]. Each volunteer participated in a 6 h, individualized, non-shivering cold exposure protocol. BAT was quantified using positron emission tomography/computed tomography. Body core and skin temperatures were measured using a telemetric pill and wireless thermistors, respectively. Core body temperature decreased during cold exposure in the BAT- group only (-0.34°C, 95% CI: -0.6 to -0.1, p = 0.03), while the cold-induced change in core temperature was significantly different between BAT+ and BAT- subjects (BAT+ vs. BAT-, 0.43°C, 95% CI: 0.20-0.65, p = 0.0014). BAT volume was associated with the cold-induced change in core temperature (p = 0.01) even after adjustment for age and adiposity. Compared to the BAT- group, BAT+ subjects tolerated a lower ambient temperature (BAT-: 20.6 ± 0.3°C vs. BAT+: 19.8 ± 0.3°C, p = 0.035) without shivering. The cold-induced change in core temperature (r = 0.79, p = 0.001) and supraclavicular temperature (r = 0.58, p = 0.014) correlated with BAT volume, suggesting that these non-invasive measures can be potentially used as surrogate markers of BAT when other methods to detect BAT are not available or their use is not warranted. These results demonstrate a physiologically significant role for BAT in thermoregulation in people. This trial has been registered with Clinaltrials.gov: NCT01791114 (https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01791114).

KEYWORDS:

body core temperature; brown adipose tissue; cold exposure; supraclavicular skin temperature; thermoregulation

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