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BACKGROUND: Bardet-Biedl syndrome (BBS) is a rare autosomal recessive syndromic obesity of childhood onset among many other features. To date, the excess risk of metabolic complications of severe early-onset obesity in BBS remains controversial. In-depth investigation of adipose tissue structure and function with detailed metabolic phenotype has not been investigated yet. OBJECTIVE: To investigate adipose tissue function in BBS. DESIGN: A prospective cross-sectional study. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: To determine if there are differences in insulin resistance, metabolic profile, adipose tissue function and gene expression in patients with BBS compared to BMI-matched polygenic obese controls. METHOD: 9 adults with BBS and 10 controls were recruited from the national centre for BBS, Birmingham, UK. An in-depth study of adipose tissue structure and function along with insulin sensitivity was performed using hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamp studies, adipose tissue microdialysis, histology and RNA sequencing, and measurement of circulating adipokines and inflammatory biomarkers. RESULTS: Adipose tissue structure, gene expression and in vivo functional analysis between BBS and polygenic obesity cohorts were similar. Using hyperinsulinemic-euglycemic clamp and surrogate markers of insulin resistance, we found no significant differences in insulin sensitivity between BBS and obese controls. Furthermore, no significant changes were noted in an array of adipokines, cytokines, pro-inflammatory markers and adipose tissue RNA transcriptomic. CONCLUSION: Although childhood-onset extreme obesity is a feature of BBS, detailed studies of insulin sensitivity and adipose tissue structure and function are similar to common polygenic obesity. This study adds to the literature by suggesting that it is the quality and quantity of adiposity not the duration that drives the metabolic phenotype.

Original publication




Journal article


Int J Obes (Lond)

Publication Date





382 - 390


Humans, Bardet-Biedl Syndrome, Insulin Resistance, Cross-Sectional Studies, Prospective Studies, Pediatric Obesity, Adipose Tissue, Adipokines