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Understanding more about bone-marrow fat cells and their role in health and disease

01 October 2021


Crucial for energy storage and hormonal regulation of many processes, fat tissue comes in two main types, fulfilling different roles, white (WAT) and brown adipose tissue (BAT), as well as in a more mysterious form: bone marrow adipose tissue, or BMAT. These fat cells, bone marrow adipocytes (BMAds), occupy up to 70% of bone marrow volume, but are relatively poorly understood. Like WAT cells, in normal conditions, BMAds and the stromal cells from which they develop express adiponectin, a key fat cell protein; pictured is a mouse bone marrow culture, with adiponectin-expressing stromal cells in green, and lipid droplets, highlighted in pink. Yet experiments in a 'fat-free' mouse model, lacking cells expressing adiponectin, suggest that BMAds can develop through an alternative pathway when needed. Changes to BMAT occur in several health conditions, from anorexia to osteoporosis, and further research will continue to uncover its various functions.

Written by Emmanuelle Briolat

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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