Epicardial adipose tissue in endocrine and metabolic diseases
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- Iacobellis, G. Endocrine (2014) 46: 8. doi:10.1007/s12020-013-0099-4
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Epicardial adipose tissue has recently emerged as new risk factor and active player in metabolic and cardiovascular diseases. Albeit its physiological and pathological roles are not completely understood, a body of evidence indicates that epicardial adipose tissue is a fat depot with peculiar and unique features. Epicardial fat is able to synthesize, produce, and secrete bioactive molecules which are then transported into the adjacent myocardium through vasocrine and/or paracrine pathways. Based on these evidences, epicardial adipose tissue can be considered an endocrine organ. Epicardial fat is also thought to provide direct heating to the myocardium and protect the heart during unfavorable hemodynamic conditions, such as ischemia or hypoxia. Epicardial fat has been suggested to play an independent role in the development and progression of obesity- and diabetes-related cardiac abnormalities. Clinically, the thickness of epicardial fat can be easily and accurately measured. Epicardial fat thickness can serve as marker of visceral adiposity and visceral fat changes during weight loss interventions and treatments with drugs targeting the fat. The potential of modulating the epicardial fat with targeted pharmacological agents can open new avenues in the pharmacotherapy of endocrine and metabolic diseases. This review article will provide Endocrine’s reader with a focus on epicardial adipose tissue in endocrinology. Novel, established, but also speculative findings on epicardial fat will be discussed from the unexplored perspective of both clinical and basic Endocrinologist.