The first MRI scan to show ‘brown fat’ in a living adult could prove to be an essential step towards a new wave of therapies to aid the fight against diabetes and obesity. In a recently published report (Reddy et al, Identification of brown adipose tissue using MR imaging in a human adult with histological and immunohistochemical confirmation, J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2014; 99: E117-21. doi: 10.1210/jc.2013-2036.), researchers from Warwick Medical School and University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust in the UK described the use of MRI to identify and confirm the presence of brown adipose tissue in a living adult. Brown fat has become a hot topic for scientists due to its ability to use energy and burn calories, helping to keep weight in check. Understanding brown fat tissue and how it can be used to such ends is of growing interest in the search to help people suffering from obesity or at a high risk of developing diabetes, as Dr Thomas Barber, from the Department of Metabolic and Vascular Health at Warwick Medical School, explained. The study showed the benefits of using MRI scans over the existing method, namely PET. Although PET can show brown fat activity, it is subject to a number of limitations including the challenge of signal variability from a changing environmental temperature. Unlike the PET data which only displays activity, the MRI can show brown fat content whether active or not – providing a detailed insight into where it can be found in the adult body. This information could prove vital in the creation of future therapies that seek to activate deposits of brown fat. Dr Barber added, “The MRI allows us to distinguish between the brown fat, and the more well-known white fat that people associate with weight gain, due to the different water-to-fat ratio of the two tissue types.