Perspectives on Brown Adipose Tissue Imaging: Insights from Preclinical and Clinical Observations from the Last and Current Century

John P. Crandall, Richard L. Wahl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Brown adipose tissue (BAT) was first described in the 16th century, but until late last century had mainly been considered a tissue with the function of nonshivering thermogenesis, maintaining body temperature in key organs in newborns who have high body surface areas relative to their weight and thus marked radiative heat loss. BAT was believed to have substantially disappeared by adulthood. Molecular imaging with 18F-FDG PET and PET combined with CT, as well as imaging with 131I-metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG) beginning late last century have shown BAT to be present and active well into adulthood. This review highlights key aspects of BAT biology, early empiric observations misidentifying BAT, pitfalls in image interpretation, and methods to intentionally reduce BAT uptake, and outlines multiple imaging methods used to identify BAT in vivo. The therapeutic potential of increasing the amount or activity of BAT for weight loss and improvement of glucose and lipid profiles is highlighted as a major opportunity. Molecular imaging can help dissect the physiology of this complex dynamic tissue and offers the potential for addressing challenges separating "active BAT" from "total BAT." Research in BAT has grown extensively, and 18F-FDG PET is the key imaging procedure against which all other BAT imaging methods must be compared. Given the multiple functions of BAT, it is reasonable to consider it a previously unrecognized endocrine tissue and thus an appropriate topic for review in this supplement to The Journal of Nuclear Medicine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)34S-43S
JournalJournal of nuclear medicine : official publication, Society of Nuclear Medicine
StatePublished - Jul 1 2021


  • 18F-fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG)
  • brown adipose tissue (BAT)
  • computed tomography (CT)
  • metaiodobenzylguanidine (MIBG)
  • positron emission tomography (PET)


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