Jan Nedergaard talks with
ScienceWatch.com and answers a few questions about
this month's Fast Moving Front in the field of Biology
& Biochemistry. The author has also sent along images
of his work.
Article: Brown adipose tissue: Function and
Journal: PHYSIOL REV, 84 (1): 277-359 JAN 2004
Addresses: Stockholm Univ, Arrhenius Labs F3, Wenner Gren
Inst, SE-10691 Stockholm, Sweden.
Stockholm Univ, Arrhenius Labs F3, Wenner Gren Inst,
SE-10691 Stockholm, Sweden.
Why do you think your paper is highly cited?
Does it describe a new discovery, methodology, or synthesis of
It represents the most updated general and critical overview of what is
known about brown adipose tissue physiology and the underlying cellular and
molecular processes. It was published at a time which coincided with an
accelerating interest in brown adipose tissue.
It's clearly a synthesis of knowledge, leading to the identification of
several issues that require experimental clarification.
Would you summarize the significance of your paper
in layman's terms?
With many scientists entering the brown adipose tissue field, there is a
necessity for an accessible source of information written by scientists
with lengthy experience in the field. What we especially attempted in this
paper was to arrive at clear statements on different discussed issues;
these statements may not necessarily withstand the pressure of time, but
they present the new worker in the field with a coherent picture of the
scientific markers in this field.
How did you become involved in this research and
were any particular problems encountered along the way?
I have been working on brown adipose tissue for, at the time of the
article's publication, nearly 30 years, and now even longer as I still
pursue these issues. When I first became involved, it was in a purely
scientific field of study which was not intended to lead to benefits for
mankind other than a greater general understanding. It has rewardingly
turned out that this basic research—as with other types of scientific
investigation—can often point toward developments of understanding
which may lead to new avenues in practical life.
Where do you see your research leading in the
The developments in the field that occurred after this paper had been
published have been impressive, with three major breakthroughs within the
last several years: an unexpected understanding of the origin of the brown
fat cells, demonstrations that the tissue actually protects against obesity
and the realization that active brown adipose tissue is found in adult
Do you foresee any social or political implications
for your research?
An understanding of one of the reasons for obesity—i.e., an absence
of active brown adipose tissue—may reasonably be said to have
potential social effects, especially if this knowledge can lead toward real
possibilities to counteract obesity.
Jan Nedergaard, Ph.D.
The Wenner-Gren Institute
The Arrhenius Labs
KEYWORDS: UNCOUPLING PROTEIN GENE; DIET-INDUCED
THERMOGENESIS; SYMPATHETIC-NERVOUS-SYSTEM; COLD-ACCLIMATED RATS;
MESSENGER-RNA EXPRESSION; CORTICOTROPIN-RELEASING-FACTOR; HORMONE-SENSITIVE
LIPASE; BETA-ADRENERGIC STIMULATION; NON-SHIVERING THERMOGENESIS;