About this Research Topic
A critical moment in evolution was when animals became independent of the environmental temperature. In mammals, brown adipose tissue (BAT) and thermogenic adipocytes have the unique capacity to use energy-dense nutrients for heat production. However, most modern humans live in thermoneutral environments where cold exposure is no longer life-threatening. In contrast, our modern societies face the distinct challenge of metabolic disorders. The cluster of insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, atherosclerotic dyslipidemia, and cardiovascular disease constitutes an important public health issue affecting the health and well-being of millions of people worldwide. Developing and establishing effective strategies to improve the metabolic health of the population and prevent the development of cardiometabolic disease is an important public health priority.
The unequivocal demonstration BAT activity in adult humans has led to a surge of scientific interest in the role of BAT in metabolic health over the last years. More recently, the discovery that white adipose tissue (WAT) can adopt functional characteristics similar to BAT has further fueled the hope to exploit the powers of thermogenic adipocytes to combat metabolic disorders. One of the unique characteristics of thermogenic adipocytes is the large number of mitochondria enriched in uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1), which hot wires oxidative phosphorylation resulting in thermogenesis. Alternative biochemical pathways to UCP1-mediated respiration (e.g., creatine cycling, and glycerol 3-phosphate shuttle, and others) have also been postulated to contribute to thermogenesis in quantitative terms. Upon activation (in response to neuroendocrine, metabolic or dietary factors), thermogenic adipocytes increase their metabolic rate, oxygen consumption and accelerate glucose, lipid, and branched-chain amino acid metabolism. Lastly, BAT has been implicated as an endocrine organ, secreting signaling peptides, lipokines, and exosomal microRNAs that may affect the activity of distant tissues to coordinate whole-body metabolism.
Current evidence, mostly from studies in preclinical models and some clinical investigations, support that BAT and the browning of WAT may constitute potential targets for the prevention and treatment of metabolic disorders. Considering that the thermogenesis research field is still in its early stages, several questions with regard to the role of BAT in cardiometabolic health remain to be answered. We are inviting scientists working in the area of adipose tissue biology, endocrinology, and metabolism to submit manuscripts for consideration in this special Research Topic on the role of BAT and/or the browning of WAT on metabolic health. The submitted manuscripts may include Original Research, reviews or mini reviews, commentaries, and opinion articles.
Keywords: Brown adipose tissue, insulin resistance, diabetes, atherosclerosis, Beige Adipose Tissue
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