The cellular plasticity of human adipocytes

Sunil S. Tholpady, Chongdee Aojanepong, Ramon Llull, Jae Ho Jeong, Aaron C. Mason, J. W. Futrell, Roy C. Ogle, Adam J. Katz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

71 Scopus citations


Little is known regarding the biology of fat considering its extensive use clinically in soft tissue implantation. Free-fat transfer is problematic the result of graft site volume loss, appearing histologically as the replacement of mature adipocytes with a fibroblast-like infiltrate. We hypothesize that these histologic changes reflect a dedifferentiation of ischemic mature adipocytes instead of, or in addition to, a more traditional response. To explore this hypothesis, we studied the in vitro morphologic changes of cultured mature human adipocytes isolated from liposuctioned adipose tissue. Most adipocytes over time lost significant amounts of intracellular lipid. Ultimately, these cells lost all lipid, appeared fibroblastic, and proliferated to confluence. Adipogenic induction of such dedifferentiated adipocytes resulted in reaccumulation of intracellular lipid. This study demonstrates that mature adipocytes can be cultured from human liposuctioned fat, they can dedifferentiate into fibroblastic cells, and the fibroblast-like cells can be expanded and turned into lipid-synthesizing adipocytes. Exploration of this cellular plasticity might ultimately yield important insights into free-fat transfer and novel tissue-engineering strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)651-656
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of Plastic Surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1 2005


  • Adipocyte
  • Adipogenesis
  • Differentiation
  • Fat grafting
  • Preadipocyte

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery

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    Tholpady, S. S., Aojanepong, C., Llull, R., Jeong, J. H., Mason, A. C., Futrell, J. W., Ogle, R. C., & Katz, A. J. (2005). The cellular plasticity of human adipocytes. Annals of Plastic Surgery, 54(6), 651-656.