Researchers focusing on fat know that some adipose tissue is more prone to inflammation-related comorbidities than others, but the causes are not fully understood. Thanks to a new analytical technique, scientists are gaining a clearer view of the microenvironments found within adipose tissue associated with obesity.
This advancement could illuminate why certain adipose tissues are more prone to inflammation – leading to type 2 diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disorders – and could help guide future drug therapies to treat obesity.
In a new study, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign professors of bioengineering Andrew Smith and Mark A. Anastasio, professor of molecular and integrative physiology Erik Nelson, and nutritional sciences professor Kelly Swanson detail the use of the new technique in mice. The results are published in the journal Science Advances.
Inflammation in adipose tissue manifests itself as round inflammatory tissue complexes called crown-like structures. Previous studies have shown that body fat containing these structures is associated with worse outcomes of obesity and related metabolic disorders.
Previously, researchers were limited to the use of 2D tissue slices and traditional microscopy, which limited what researchers could learn about them.
To get a better view, the team combined a special type of microscope that uses a 3D light layer instead of a beam, the oil removal technique that makes tissue optically transparent, and deep learning algorithms that help process large amounts of imaging. data was generated.
The researchers found that the crown-like appearances that gave these structures their name were actually like 3D shells or concentric spheres surrounding an empty core.
Using our new technique, we are able to determine the volume of crown-like structures, the specific number of cells associated with them, and their size, geometry and distribution. “
Andrew Smith, Professor, Bioengineering, University of Illinois Urbana Champaign
This ability led the team to discover that obesity tends to be associated with the prevalence of rare, large crown-like structures that are not found in the lean.
“These very large crown-like structures are gathered together and are at the center of the fabric,” Smith said. “And there is no way we can analyze this before we use our new technique.”
Smith said the research could lead to new drug treatments and new ways to evaluate patients’ metabolic health.
“We now know that some patients are overweight but metabolically healthy, while others are lean and metabolically unhealthy,” Smith said. “We believe that having the ability to look deeply into adipose tissue and microenvironments may unlock some of the reasons for this.”
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, News Bureau
Geng, J., and others. (2021) 3D microscopy and deep learning reveal the heterogeneity of crown-like structure microenvironments in intact adipose tissue. Science Advances. doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.abe2480.