Honors College

Document Type

Honors Thesis




Kristy Townsend

Committee Members

Magdalena Blaszkiewicz, Naomi Jacobs, Alan Rosenwasser, Seth Tyler

Graduation Year

May 2019

Publication Date



Obesity, weight gain and the many metabolic disorders that can arise from being overweight are predominant health issues in America and in the State of Maine. The body’s ability to balance energy intake and energy expenditure is what determines whether a person gains or loses body fat. Although there are many different factors that influence energy storage and expenditure, neural innervation of white and brown fat (or adipose) tissues is an important aspect of energy balance that is not well understood. The Townsend Lab focuses on brain-adipose communication and the role of adipose peripheral nerves in maintaining proper body weight and metabolic health. One of the major unanswered questions in the field is how the peripheral nervous system innervates individual adipocytes as well as cells in the stromal vascular fraction (SVF), or the immune and progenitor cells that reside adjacent to adipocytes in the adipose organ. I imaged synapses in inguinal adipose tissue using transmission electron microscopy (TEM), which provides ultra-structural detail of the neural connections in adipose tissue. Although I could not find synapses using EM, I was able to observe SVF immune cells and axons in the SVF. We are also imaging synapses in inguinal and axillary adipose tissue using immunofluorescence for synaptic markers at a magnification of 100X that will be a more appropriate scale for synaptic identification on specific cell types.