Micro-physiological in-vitro model of white fat tissue for obesity and diabetes research

© Fraunhofer IGB
Completed WAT chips prior to tissue injection.
© Fraunhofer IGB
3D fluorescence image of in-chip human WAT.


White adipose tissue (WAT) is an organ that is still often overlooked although it can represent approximately 20 – 25 percent of the body weight in healthy men and women and even more than 50 percent in the case of illness (obesity). WAT is a highly specialized connective tissue which has only been perceived as a storage and energy supply organ for a long time. Nowadays, it is recognized as an important endocrine organ secreting a wide array of cytokines and thus playing an important role in a wide range of diseases of the liver, heart and kidneys.

Due to the rapidly increasing prevalence of obesity and associated diseases such as type-2 diabetes, it is becoming more and more important for pharmaceutical and biomedical research to understand (patho-)mechanisms and dysfunction in fat tissues. However, at present, a limiting factor is that human adult fat tissue can only be cultivated in vitro to a limited extent. The Attract group Organ-on-a-chip has now succeeded in generating a human adult WAT in a micro-physiological 3D environment and keeping it functional for more than one month using blood-vessel-like perfusion. The WAT-on-a-chip system opens up a variety of possibilities for studies on mechanistic processes in obesity and diabetes research as well as for the examination of effect, toxicity and storage of pharmaceutical preparations.



[1] P. Loskill, T. Sezhian, K. M. Tharp, F. T. Lee-Montiel, S. Jeeawoody, W. M. Reese, P.-J. H. Zushin, A. Stahl, K. E. Healy
“WAT-on-a-chip: a physiologically relevant microfluidic system incorporating white adipose tissue“
Lab Chip 17, 1645-1654 (2017); http://www.dx.doi.org/10.1039/C6LC01590E

[2] J. Rogal#, A. Zbinden#, K. Schenke-Layland, P. Loskill
Stem-cell based organ-on-a-chip models for diabetes research,
Adv. Drug Deliv. Rev., in press (2019), https://doi.org/10.1016/j.addr.2018.10.010