Frontiers of Medicine

, Volume 12, Issue 2, pp 130–138 | Cite as

Role of brown adipose tissue in metabolic syndrome, aging, and cancer cachexia

  • Meng Dong
  • Jun Lin
  • Wonchung Lim
  • Wanzhu Jin
  • Hyuek Jong LeeEmail author


Brown adipose tissue (BAT) plays a fundamental role in maintaining body temperature by producing heat. BAT that had been know to exist only in mammals and the human neonate has received great attention for the treatment of obesity and diabetes due to its important function in energy metabolism, ever since it is recently reported that human adults have functional BAT. In addition, beige adipocytes, brown adipocytes in white adipose tissue (WAT), have also been shown to take part in whole body metabolism. Multiple lines of evidence demonstrated that transplantation or activation of BAT or/and beige adipocytes reversed obesity and improved insulin sensitivity. Furthermore, many genes involved in BATactivation and/or the recruitment of beige cells have been found, thereby providing new promising strategies for future clinical application of BAT activation to treat obesity and metabolic diseases. This review focuses on recent advances of BAT function in the metabolic aspect and the relationship between BAT and cancer cachexia, a pathological process accompanied with decreased body weight and increased energy expenditure in cancer patients. The underlying possible mechanisms to reduce BAT mass and its activity in the elderly are also discussed.


brown adipose tissue beige adipocyte anti-obesity anti-diabetes cancer cachexia aging 


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This work was supported by the Strategic Priority Research Program (No. XDB13030000), the Ministry of Science and Technology of China (Nos. 2015CB943102, 2012CBA01301, and 2012CB944701), and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 81370951).


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Copyright information

© Higher Education Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Meng Dong
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jun Lin
    • 1
    • 2
  • Wonchung Lim
    • 3
  • Wanzhu Jin
    • 1
  • Hyuek Jong Lee
    • 1
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Animal Ecology and Conservation Biology, Institute of ZoologyChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.The University of the Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Department of Sports Medicine, College of Health ScienceCheongju UniversityCheongjuRepublic of Korea
  4. 4.Center for Vascular ResearchInstitute for Basic Science (IBS)DaejeonRepublic of Korea

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