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This week highlights a research article on the implications of brown adipose tissue on glucose homeostasis.
Instructions to access: Copy and paste the article title into UBC Summon to read the full article, or access the EZProxy link below.
Brown Adipose Tissue (BAT) has been traditionally known for its ability to generate heat for the maintenance of body temperature as a part of homeostasis. Among its roles, its consumption of fatty acids as well as glucose have been known to affect the blood glucose level, but the clinical significance in relation to whole body metabolism has not been extensively studied in human. This small yet interesting study looks at twelve healthy males who were exposed to both cold exposure (CE) study as well as thermoneutral (TN) study, with two weeks in between each study. The subjects followed a standardized diet three days prior to each studies and were fasted overnight just before the study. In CE study, the subjects wore liquid-cooled garments which decreased temperature from 20 °C by 1°C increments until the subjects reported shivering, at which point the temperature was held 1 °C above the shivering temperature for the duration of study in order to promote nonshivering thermogenesis (that is, activate BAT). In TN study, the temperature was held at 20 °C. In each condition, the amount of BAT was measured by PET/CT scanning to assign the subjects into BAT-positive and BAT-negative groups based on the volume of BAT. In all subjects, stable glucose isotope infusion was performed to analyze the glucose and free fatty acid kinetics, along with blood analysis. The insulin sensitivity, among other values, was also determined via hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamp to induce hyperinsulinemic state. The results showed that BAT activation by CE did not only increase the energy expenditure and systemic glucose disposal, but it also increased insulin-sensitive glucose disposal compared to the TN condition. Given that these were shown only in BAT-positive group, BAT appears to play a significant role in the said functions. While it should be noted that this study was limited by the small number of participants and the methodology involving human subjects, its results show that the amount of BAT and BAT activation, at least by acute exposure to cold, may have implications in glucose homeostasis, insulin sensitivity, and even diabetes.
– Yohan Choi
B.Sc. (Pharm) Candidate 2016