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Detection of novel batokines in blood samples for the assessment of brown adipose tissue activity in humans

Beatrice Bertozzi, University of Lübeck



Brown adipose tissue (BAT) is a highly specialized type of fat tissue.  Once activated, it rapidly generates heat by metabolizing macronutrients, such as glucose and lipids, through activation of mitochondrial uncoupling protein 1.  Therefore, BAT has been recognized as novel therapeutic target for metabolic diseases in humans, particularly in counteracting type 2 diabetes and obesity.  Cold exposure is the most prominent stimulus for BAT activation.  However, the accurate detection of activated BAT remains a challenge in humans: the use of the gold standard technique PET-CT is limited due to high cost and radiation; Infra-red thermography has been postulated as an alternative non-invasive technique, but has to be further researched.  Recently, it has been hypothesized that molecules secreted from BAT, i.e. batokines, are involved in regulating BAT activity in autocrine or paracrine manner.  Thus, detecting such factors in blood could be used as a non-invasive strategy to assess BAT activity, as well as to investigate the potential of new compounds aimed to induce BAT activation in humans. 

With this background, I aim to join Professor Scheele's lab to gain knowledge in advanced techniques needed to identify and determine the function of batokines in blood. 

My main goal is to answer the question whether a change in the level of batokines expression is detectable in blood upon cold exposure. 

These results will help addressing one of the main research challenges of my PhD project, which is the identification of novel biomarkers required to assess and characterize the induced activation of BAT in humans.



I joined the lab of Professor Scheele aiming to learn state of the art techniques to identify novel factors released by brown fat, i.e. batokines, upon cold exposure in order to address one of the main objectives of my PhD project, which is the identification of potential biomarkers to non-invasively assess the induced activation of brown adipose tissue (BAT) in humans.

The period I spent working in Professor Scheele’s lab has proven precious to gain important insights to advance with my research project. The whole team nicely welcomed me in the group and provided me with excellent expertise in the field of brow fat secretome. Not only I learnt how to run specific explorative analysis in human plasma samples to look for batokines, but I also had the opportunity to work with cell cultures isolated from human brown tissue biopsies. This allows me to investigate the regulating mechanisms of identified batokines in terms of their autocrine and paracrine roles in improving BAT functions as well as the possible crosstalk of BAT with other metabolic organs.

Apart from the time spent working in the lab, I attended several talks of international scientists in the field of Metabolic Research, from University of Copenhagen as well as from abroad Institutions. It has been inspiring being part of such prestigious scientific environment, and meeting so many talented people dedicated to the field of adipose tissue metabolism research.

I am grateful to the Bioscientifica Trust for kindly supporting part of my research stay at the CBMR at the University of Copenhagen. I learnt a lot and gained precious expertise working in the lab, in particular regarding several procedures of in vitro studies. This new insight will be of critical help for the good outcome of my PhD project. Overall, this exchange period was a great benefit for me, both professionally and personally.


Grant awarded: €1,700.00


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