The activation of brown and beige adipose tissue (BAT) and “browning”, (generation of BAT in white fat tissue depots) has aroused great interest in biomedical research in the last few years. This is mainly due to the decoupling of the mitochondrial respiratory chain in BAT, a biochemical process that is showing considerable potential for new therapeutic approaches, in particular to obesity and diabetes. However, studies with human tissue are still rare and difficult to carry out at present. Concepts and technologies to examine browning for pharmacological studies and personalized medicine currently exist only to a limited extent.
As part of a collaborative project supported by the German Academic Exchange Service (Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, DAAD), Julia Rogal, a Talenta-funded IGB junior scientist, has conducted research at the University of California at Berkeley, USA, for two months and has developed an innovative microfluidic system for the integration of (beige) adipose tissue. This BAT-on-a-chip makes a variety of different assays possible, e.g. to examine activation/blocking of the functionality of BAT, the induction of browning in white adipose tissue, and characterization of endocrine and metabolic function of BAT. The BAT-on-the chip system opens up diverse possibilities as an in-vitro model for general screens to identify substances that induce browning, as well as for approaches to examine patient-specific effects of therapy approaches.