Structure and Functions of Adipose Tissue

Adipose Tissue is a loose fibrous connective tissue that is packed with many fat cells (called adipocytes):


1.0 Where in the body is adipose tissue ?

Adipose tissue forms a thick layer under the skin, around the kidneys and in the buttocks.
More generally, it is found at the same locations throughout the body as areolar connective tissue.

Specific examples of the locations of adipose tissue include:

  • Subcutaneous layer deep to skin
  • Around the heart
  • Around the kidneys
  • Yellow marrow of the long bones
  • Padding around the joints
  • Inside the eye-socket, posterior to the eyeball.


2.0 The Structure of adipose tissue


Adipose Tissue is a loose fibrous connective tissue packed with many cells (called adipocytes) that are specialized for storage of triglycerides more commonly referred to as fats.

Each adipocyte cell is filled with a single large droplet of triglyceride (fat). As this occupies most of the volume of the cell, its cytoplasm, nucleus, and other components are pushed towards the edges of the cell which is bounded by the plasma membrane (also known as the cell membrane).

Above: Diagram of Adipose Tissue

Definition of an Adipocyte:

"An adipocyte is an animal cell whose particular function is the storage of triglyerides (fats). As the triglyceride is stored in a large central area of the cytoplasm of adipocytes, their nuclei are peripherally located."

Examples are simple representations of adipocytes are shown in the diagram above.


3.0 The Functions of adipose tissue

  • Adipose tissue acts as an insulating layer, helping to reduce heat loss through the skin.
  • It also has a protective function, providing mechanical protection (padding) and support around some of the major organs, e.g. kidneys.
  • Adipose tissue is also a means of energy storage.
    Food that is excess to requirements is converted into fat and stored within adipose tissue in the body.

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