Doctoral dissertation

Doctoral researcher developed a human cell-based adipose tissue model

Outi Huttala. Kuva: Maaret Vaani
Cell models developed from human cells can mimic human biology better than animal models. In this dissertation, human cells forming blood vessels and fat cells were combined to develop human adipose tissue models. These models can be utilised in biological, toxicological and pharmacological studies to replace animal experiments.

Due to the increasing obesity problem, interest in studying adipose tissue has increased. Adipose tissue is closely related to various conditions including metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes. Most of the adipose tissue research is still performed with animal models, mostly rodent models. Due to the biological differences between animals and humans, the results obtained with animal models do not depict the biological events in humans. Hence, human cell based models are needed to obtain more accurate results.

This dissertation presented methods for creating blood vessel-like structures, fat cells and a combined fat tissue model from cells derived from adipose tissue and the umbilical cord. Leftover fat tissue from surgical operations provides a vast and ethical source of cells for cell models. Adipose-derived cells can be differentiated to fat cells and with endothelial cells (blood vessel forming cells) obtained from the umbilical cord they can be stimulated to form vessel structures in a laboratory. The three models presented in the dissertation; vasculature, adipocytes and adipose tissue models were analysed to ensure that their properties are the same as in real human tissue.

The results showed that the models have the right features relevant for blood vessels and fat cells. In addition, the results showed that blood vessels influence the insulin responses of adipose tissue. This result merits further studies of specific mechanisms behind this effect.

The cell models produced in this dissertation are useful for biological, toxicological and pharmacological studies. In the future, these models could be modified to mimic disturbances in adipose tissue, such as inflammation and related diseases including type 2 diabetes.

The researcher, Outi Huttala, was born in Hausjärvi. She is conducting research in the cell biology group led by Professor Timo Ylikomi and at FICAM, which is directed by Professor Tuula Heinonen, at Tampere University.

The doctoral dissertation of MSc Outi Huttala in the field of cell biology Human In Vitro Vascularization, Adipocytes and Vascularized Adipose Tissue: Three relevant models for studies of vascularization, adipocytes and their interaction will be publicly examined in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Technology at Tampere University on Thursday 27th June 2019 at 12 o'clock in the auditorium F114 of the Arvo building, Arvo Ylpön katu 34. The opponent is Professor Michael Raghunath from the ZHAW Zurich University of Applied Sciences. Professor Timo Ylikomi from Tampere University will be the custos.

The dissertation is available at

Photograph: Maaret Vaani