Once fat was fat and that was that: Our changing perspectives on adipose tissue
Past civilisations saw excess body fat as a symbol of wealth and prosperity as the general population struggled with food shortages and famine. Nowadays it is recognised that obesity is associated with co-morbidities such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Our views on the roll of adipose tissue have also changed, from being solely a passive energy store, to an important endocrine organ that modulates metabolism, immunity and satiety. The relationship between increased visceral adiposity and obesity-related co-morbidities has lead to the recognition that variation in fat distribution contributes to ethnic differences in the prevalence of obesity-related diseases. Our current negative view of adipose tissue may change with the use of pluripotent adipose-derived stromal cells, which may lead to future autologous stem cell therapies for bone, muscle, cardiac and cartilage disorders. Here, we briefly review the concepts that adipose tissue is an endocrine organ, that differences in body fat distribution underline the aetiology of obesity-related co-morbidities, and the use of adipose-derived stem cells for future therapies.