Use of thermal imaging to measure brown adipose tissue activation in adult humans

Until recently, brown adipose tissue was thought to be insignificant in the physiology of adult humans.  Brown adipose tissue is involved in body temperature regulation, and although it was found to be prevalent in infants, it was thought to only be present in adults in negligible quantity. Using radiolabeled glucose and PET imaging, it has now been confirmed that brown adipose tissue is present in adults.  PET imaging to measure radiolabeled glucose usage in tissue remains the gold standard measurement of brown adipose tissue activation in humans. However, PET imaging studies are expensive, and the use of ionizing radiation make these types of studies difficult to conduct.

Although thermal imaging has been used to measure changes in skin temperature to indicate brown adipose tissue thermogenesis, the technique is not broadly accepted as a valid and reliable approach. We have been working using indirect calorimetry in parallel with thermal imaging to measure brown adipose tissue thermogenesis.