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Keywords:

  • brown adipose tissue;
  • white adipose tissue;
  • histology;
  • human;
  • fat-signal fraction;
  • x-ray attenuation

Abstract

We report the unique depiction of brown adipose tissue (BAT) by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) in a human 3-month-old infant. Based on cellular differences between BAT and more lipid-rich white adipose tissue (WAT), chemical-shift MRI and CT were both capable of generating distinct signal contrasts between the two tissues and against surrounding anatomy, utilizing fat-signal fraction metrics in the former and x-ray attenuation values in the latter. While numerous BAT imaging experiments have been performed previously in rodents, the identification of BAT in humans has only recently been described with fusion positron emission and computed tomography in adults. The imaging of BAT in children has not been widely reported and, furthermore, MRI of human BAT in general has not been demonstrated. In the present work, large bilateral supraclavicular BAT depots were clearly visualized with MRI and CT. Tissue identity was subsequently confirmed by histology. BAT has important implications in regulating energy metabolism and nonshivering thermogenesis and has the potential to combat the onset of weight gain and the development of obesity. Current findings suggest that BAT is present in significant amounts in children and that MRI and CT can differentiate BAT from WAT based on intrinsic tissue properties. J. Magn. Reson. Imaging 2012;35:938–942. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.