Use of osmium tetroxide staining with microcomputerized tomography to visualize and quantify bone marrow adipose tissue in vivo

Erica L. Scheller, Nancy Troiano, Joshua N. Vanhoutan, Mary A. Bouxsein, Jackie A. Fretz, Yougen Xi, Tracy Nelson, Griffin Katz, Ryan Berry, Christopher D. Church, Casey R. Doucette, Matthew S. Rodeheffer, Ormond A. MacDougald, Clifford J. Rosen, Mark C. Horowitz

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

131 Scopus citations


Adipocytes reside in discrete, well-defined depots throughout the body. In addition to mature adipocytes, white adipose tissue depots are composed of many cell types, including macrophages, endothelial cells, fibroblasts, and stromal cells, which together are referred to as the stromal vascular fraction (SVF). The SVF also contains adipocyte progenitors that give rise to mature adipocytes in those depots. Marrow adipose tissue (MAT) or marrow fat has long been known to be present in bone marrow (BM) but its origin, development, and function remain largely unknown. Clinically, increased MAT is associated with age, metabolic diseases, drug treatment, and marrow recovery in children receiving radiation and chemotherapy. In contrast to the other depots, MAT is unevenly distributed in the BM of long bones. Conventional quantitation relies on sectioning of the bone to overcome issues with distribution but is time-consuming, resource intensive, inconsistent between laboratories and may be unreliable as it may miss changes in MAT volume. Thus, the inability to quantitate MAT in a rapid, systematic, and reproducible manner has hampered a full understanding of its development and function. In this chapter, we describe a new technique that couples histochemical staining of lipid using osmium tetroxide with microcomputerized tomography to visualize and quantitate MAT within the medullary canal in three dimensions. Imaging of osmium staining provides a high-resolution map of existing and developing MAT in the BM. Because this method is simple, reproducible, and quantitative, we expect it will become a useful tool for the precise characterization of MAT.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMethods of Adipose Tissue Biology, Part A
PublisherAcademic Press Inc.
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)9780124116191
StatePublished - 2014

Publication series

NameMethods in Enzymology
ISSN (Print)0076-6879
ISSN (Electronic)1557-7988


  • Bone marrow fat
  • Imaging bone marrow adipose tissue
  • In vivo fat measurement
  • Mapping of bone marrow adipose tissue
  • Marrow adipose tissue
  • Microcomputerized tomography
  • Osmium tetroxide
  • Yellow marrow


Dive into the research topics of 'Use of osmium tetroxide staining with microcomputerized tomography to visualize and quantify bone marrow adipose tissue in vivo'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this