MRI characterization of brown adipose tissue in obese and normal-weight children
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Brown adipose tissue (BAT) is identified in mammals as an adaptive thermogenic organ for modulation of energy expenditure and heat generation. Human BAT may be primarily composed of brown-in-white (BRITE) adipocytes and stimulation of BRITE may serve as a potential target for obesity interventions. Current imaging studies of BAT detection and characterization have been mainly limited to PET/CT. MRI is an emerging application for BAT characterization in healthy children.
To exploit Dixon and diffusion-weighted MRI methods to characterize cervical-supraclavicular BAT/BRITE properties in normal-weight and obese children while accounting for pubertal status.
Materials and methods
Twenty-eight healthy children (9–15 years old) with a normal or obese body mass index participated. MRI exams were performed to characterize supraclavicular adipose tissues by measuring tissue fat percentage, T2*, tissue water mobility, and microvasculature properties. We used multivariate linear regression models to compare tissue properties between normal-weight and obese groups while accounting for pubertal status.
MRI measurements of BAT/BRITE tissues in obese children showed higher fat percentage (P < 0.0001), higher T2* (P < 0.0001), and lower diffusion coefficient (P = 0.015) compared with normal-weight children. Pubertal status was a significant covariate for the T2* measurement, with higher T2* (P = 0.0087) in pubertal children compared to prepubertal children. Perfusion measurements varied by pubertal status. Compared to normal-weight children, obese prepubertal children had lower perfusion fraction (P = 0.003) and pseudo-perfusion coefficient (P = 0.048); however, obese pubertal children had higher perfusion fraction (P = 0.02) and pseudo-perfusion coefficient (P = 0.028).
This study utilized chemical-shift Dixon MRI and diffusion-weighted MRI methods to characterize supraclavicular BAT/BRITE tissue properties. The multi-parametric evaluation revealed evidence of morphological differences in brown adipose tissues between obese and normal-weight children.
KeywordsBrown adipose tissue Brown-in-white adipocytes Children Magnetic resonance imaging Obesity
This project was supported through a cooperative research agreement between Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and the Williams Heart Foundation.
Dr. J. L. Josefson is supported by Grant Number K12 HD055884 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development.
Conflicts of interest
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