We developed a technique to visualize the sympathetic nerves which burn fat.
Understanding the structure and function of adipose tissue (fat tissue) is key to understanding why some people develop obesity and its metabolic complications. To date it has been difficult to see what happens inside fat tissue and critically, it has not been possible to see the nerves which control how much fat we burn.
In this new study, Aliki Perdikari in the team developed a new way to visualize sympathetic nerves in adipose tissue taken from people with obesity, who volunteered for our research. Using a technique called optical clearing, Aliki was able to remove lipids (fats) and render the adipose tissue cells completely transparent. With 3D whole tissue microscopy and Light Sheet Microscopy, she was able to look inside the cells to visualize the sympathetic nerves stained with a red dye. She saw that that hundreds of individual fibres run through the fat tissue. It is these fibres, which control how the body burns fat.
The method developed in our study represents a powerful tool to further understand adipose tissue structure and function and how it might differ in some people with obesity who burn fat more slowly as a result.