Studying origins and heterogeneity of adipose tissue: a novel way of understanding aetiology of obesity

Fighting obesity through a better understanding of fat

Diagram of an adult mouse mouse , detailing development of adipose tissue
Fig 1. Summary of developmental origin(s) of adipose tissue
Green red and blue image of mesothelium visceral WAT
Fig 2. Mesothelium covering the surface of visceral organs is one source of visceral WAT

Research Methods and Objectives

Despite the increased interest of preventing obesity, we know little about the origin(s) of adipose tissue. The majority of adipose tissue in our body is made up of white adipose tissue (WAT), which can be further divided into subcutaneous and visceral WAT. Increases in visceral WAT is associated with higher risks of cardiovascular diseases, type II diabetes, and hypertension while increases in subcutaneous WAT is often benign.

Adipose tissue exists as individual ‘depots’ and it is known that they differ in the timing that they first appear in our body, as well as their cellular composition, gene expression profiles, and perhaps function(s).

Our previous work, published in Nature Cell Biology, demonstrates that subcutaneous and visceral WAT differ in their developmental origins (Fig 1 and Fig 3), and we identified mesothelium as one novel source of visceral adipose tissue (Fig 2). We are now building on this ground-breaking finding by further addressing the significance of adipose origin(s) and heterogeneity on adipose tissue development, homeostasis, and responses under diseased conditions.

Principal Investigator

You-Ying Chau



Red, green, and blue image of mesothelium differentiation
Fig 3. An ex vivo model of mesothelium/epididymal appendage differentiation into adipocytes\n