Date of Award

Fall 12-20-2019

Level of Access Assigned by Author

Open-Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)




Kristy Townsend

Second Committee Member

Joshua Kelley

Third Committee Member

Benjamin Harrison


Adipose tissue can be characterized as either being a white (energy storing) depot or a brown (energy expending) depot and both have been found to contain dense networks of neural innervation. This adipose nerve supply regulates numerous metabolic functions and likely plays an important role in the function of adipose blood vessels. Recently our lab has shown in the C57BL/6 mouse model that peripheral neuropathy, or the dying back and dysfunction of the nerves in the superficial tissues such as the skin, can extend into the subcutaneous adipose tissue in conditions commonly associated with the neuropathic phenotype (i.e. diabetes, obesity, and aging.) We have collaborated with David Harrison’s research group at the Jackson Laboratory to further investigate the onset and penetrance of this nerve die-back due to age in the genetically heterozygous HET3 mouse model. To do this effectively we had to develop a whole depot immunostaining and imaging technique that would allow us to characterize the nerves within subcutaneous adipose tissue and to quantify the total innervation. With our new method of tissue processing and imaging combined with gene and protein expression measurements we have found that the neuropathic phenotype brought on by aging is present in the skin and muscles of HET3 mice but does not appear to be present in subcutaneous adipose. The differences in age-related neuropathy between HET3 and C57BL/6 mice are likely genetic and may represent the diversity of neuropathy outcomes in the human population.

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