Obesity-related type 2 diabetes (DM) is a major public health concern. Adipose tissue metabolic dysfunction, including fibrosis, plays a central role in DM pathogenesis. Obesity is associated with changes in adipose tissue extracellular matrix (ECM), but the impact of these changes on adipose tissue mechanics and their role in metabolic disease is poorly defined. This study utilized atomic force microscopy (AFM) to quantify difference in elasticity between human DM and non-diabetic (NDM) visceral adipose tissue. The mean elastic modulus of DM adipose tissue was twice that of NDM adipose tissue (11.50 kPa vs. 4.48 kPa) to a 95% confidence level, with significant variability in elasticity of DM compared to NDM adipose tissue. Histologic and chemical measures of fibrosis revealed increased hydroxyproline content in DM adipose tissue, but no difference in Sirius Red staining between DM and NDM tissues. These findings support the hypothesis that fibrosis, evidenced by increased elastic modulus, is enhanced in DM adipose tissue, and suggest that measures of tissue mechanics may better resolve disease-specific differences in adipose tissue fibrosis compared with histologic measures. These data demonstrate the power of AFM nanoindentation to probe tissue mechanics, and delineate the impact of metabolic disease on the mechanical properties of adipose tissue.
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