Fat and bone: the multiperspective analysis of a close relationship

Maria Pilar Aparisi Gómez, Carmen Ayuso Benavent, Paolo Simoni, Francisco Aparisi, Giuseppe Guglielmi, Alberto Bazzocchi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The study of bone has for many years been focused on the study of its mineralized component, and one of the main objects of study as radiology developed as a medical specialty. The assessment has until recently been almost limited to its role as principal component of the scaffolding of the human body. Bone is a very active tissue, in continuous cross-talk with other organs and systems, with functions that are endocrine and paracrine and that have an important involvement in metabolism, ageing and health in general. Bone is also the continent for the bone marrow, in the form of "yellow marrow" (mainly adipocytes) or "red marrow" (hematopoietic cells and adipocytes). Recently, numerous studies have focused on these adipocytes contained in the bone marrow, often referred to as marrow adipose tissue (MAT). Bone marrow adipocytes do not only work as storage tissue, but are also endocrine and paracrine cells, with the potential to contribute to local bone homeostasis and systemic metabolism. Many metabolic disorders (osteoporosis, obesity, diabetes) have a complex and still not well-established relationship with MAT. The development of imaging methods, in particular the development of cross-sectional imaging has helped us to understand how much more laid beyond our classical way to look at bone. The impact on the mineralized component of bone in some cases (e.g., osteoporosis) is well-established, and has been extensively analyzed and quantified through different radiological methods. The application of advanced magnetic resonance techniques has unlocked the possibility to access the detailed study, characterization and quantification of the bone marrow components in a non-invasive way. In this review, we will address what is the evidence on the physiological role of MAT in normal skeletal health (interaction with the other bone components), during the process of normal aging and in the context of some metabolic disorders, highlighting the role that imaging methods play in helping with quantification and diagnosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1614-1635
Number of pages22
JournalQuantitative Imaging in Medicine and Surgery
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


  • Bone marrow
  • adipose tissue
  • magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS)
  • body composition
  • osteoporosis


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