White adipose tissue (WAT) is distributed in several depots with distinct metabolic and inflammatory functions. In our body there are subcutaneous (sWAT), visceral (vWAT) and bone marrow (bWAT) fat depots. Obesity affects the size, function and inflammatory state of WATs. In particular, obesity may affect the activity of mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) present in WAT. MSCs are a heterogeneous population containing stromal cells, progenitor cells, fibroblasts and stem cells that are able to differentiate among adipocytes, chondrocytes, osteocytes and other mesodermal derivatives.

In the first study of this kind, we performed a comparison of the effects of obesity on MSCs obtained from sWAT, vWAT and bWAT. Our study showed that obesity affects mainly the biological functions of MSCs obtained from bone marrow and vWAT by decreasing the proliferation rate, reducing the percentage of cells in S phase and triggering senescence. The onset of senescence was confirmed by expression of genes belonging to RB and P53 pathways.

Our study revealed that the negative consequences of obesity on body physiology may also be related to impairment in the functions of the stromal compartment present in the several adipose tissues. This finding provides new insights as to the targets that should be considered for an effective treatment of obesity-related diseases.