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ComBATing aging—does increased brown adipose tissue activity confer longevity?


Brown and its related beige adipose tissue (BAT) play a definitive role in maintaining body temperature by producing heat through uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1), which acts by dissociating oxidative phosphorylation from ATP production, resulting in the release of heat. Therefore, in order to maintain high thermogenic capacity, BAT must act as a metabolic sink by taking up vast amounts of circulating glucose and lipids for oxidation. This, along with the rediscovery of BAT in adult humans, has fueled the study of BAT as a putative therapeutic approach to manage the growing rates of obesity and metabolic syndromes. Notably, many of the beneficial consequences of BAT activity overlap with metabolic biomarkers of extended lifespan and healthspan. In this review, we provide background about BAT including the thermogenic program, BAT’s role as a secretory organ, and differences between BAT in mice and humans. We also provide details on BAT during aging, and perspectives on the potential of targeting BAT to promote lifespan and healthspan.

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This work was supported in part by US National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants R01DK077097 and R01DK102898 (to Y.-H.T.), and P30DK036836 (to Joslin Diabetes Center’s Diabetes Research Center) from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and by US Army Medical Research grant W81XWH-17-1-0428 (to Y.-H.T.). J.D was supported by institutional research training grant T32DK007260 from NIH. We apologize to those whose work we did not reference due to space limitations.

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Correspondence to Yu-Hua Tseng.

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Darcy, J., Tseng, YH. ComBATing aging—does increased brown adipose tissue activity confer longevity?. GeroScience 41, 285–296 (2019).

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  • Aging
  • Brown adipose tissue
  • Metabolism
  • Thermogenesis