In vivo quantification of subcutaneous and visceral adiposity by micro-computed tomography in a small animal model

Y. K. Luu, S. Lublinsky, E. Ozcivici, E. Capilla, J. E. Pessin, C. T. Rubin, S. Judex

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Accurate and precise techniques that identify the quantity and distribution of adipose tissue in vivo are critical for investigations of adipose development, obesity, or diabetes. Here, we tested whether in vivo micro-computed tomography (microCT) can be used to provide information on the distribution of total, subcutaneous and visceral fat volume in the mouse. Ninety C57BL/6J mice (weight range: 15.7-46.5 g) were microCT scanned in vivo at 5 months of age and subsequently sacrificed. Whole body fat volume (base of skull to distal tibia) derived from in vivo microCT was significantly (p < 0.001) correlated with the ex vivo tissue weight of discrete perigonadal (R2 = 0.94), and subcutaneous (R2 = 0.91) fat pads. Restricting the analysis of tissue composition to the abdominal mid-section between L1 and L5 lumbar vertebrae did not alter the correlations between total adiposity and explanted fat pad weight. Segmentation allowed for the precise discrimination between visceral and subcutaneous fat as well as the quantification of adipose tissue within specific anatomical regions. Both the correlations between visceral fat pad weight and microCT determined visceral fat volume (R2 = 0.95, p < 0.001) as well as subcutaneous fat pad weight and microCT determined subcutaneous fat volume (R2 = 0.91, p < 0.001) were excellent. Data from these studies establish in vivo microCT as a non-invasive, quantitative tool that can provide an in vivo surrogate measure of total, visceral, and subcutaneous adiposity during longitudinal studies. Compared to current imaging techniques with similar capabilities, such as microMRI or the combination of DEXA with NMR, it may also be more cost-effective and offer higher spatial resolutions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)34-41
Number of pages8
JournalMedical Engineering and Physics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Adipose tissue
  • Fat
  • In vivo
  • Micro-computed tomography
  • Mouse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biophysics
  • Biomedical Engineering


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