The interplay between adipose tissue and the cardiovascular system: is fat always bad?

Obesity is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD). However, clinical research has revealed a paradoxically protective role for obesity in patients with chronic diseases including CVD, suggesting that the biological “quality” of adipose tissue (AT) may be more important than overall AT mass or body weight.

Importantly, AT is recognized as a dynamic organ secreting a wide range of biologically active adipokines, microRNAs, gaseous messengers and other metabolites that affect the cardiovascular system in both endocrine and paracrine ways.

Despite being able to mediate normal cardiovascular function under physiological conditions, AT undergoes a phenotypic shift characterised by acquisition of pro-oxidant and pro-inflammatory properties in cases of CVD. Crucially, recent evidence suggests that AT depots such as perivascular AT and epicardial AT are able to modify their phenotype in response to local signals of vascular and myocardial origin respectively.

Utilisation of this unique property of certain AT depots to dynamically track cardiovascular biology may reveal novel diagnostic and prognostic tools against CVD. Better understanding of the mechanisms controlling the “quality” of AT secretome, as well as the communication links between AT and the cardiovascular system, is required for the efficient management of CVD.

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