Body fat, or adipose tissue, is far from a lifeless substance that hangs around our waists waiting to be jogged away. Unlike any other tissue type, adipose has a plasticity, which allows it to stretch and grow. At least 20% of our body mass is white adipose tissue (WAT). WAT secretes a chemical called VEGF-A, which prompts new blood vessels to develop. The resulting network of blood vessels supplies the fat with oxygen, nutrients and other chemicals essential for its spread under our skin. This picture shows adipose tissue from two mice stained brown to highlight blood vessels. The tissue from the mouse with higher levels of VEGF-A (right) has more blood vessels. Understanding this process has implications for obesity, but also for cancer, since tumours require their own blood supply to grow.
Written by John Ankers
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.