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Kirsty Spalding's Group

Our lab is primarily interested in investigating the origin and turnover of adipocytes, their progenitor cells and lipid stores in lean and obese individuals.

Spalding group
Spalding group

Obesity is increasing in an epidemic manner in most countries and constitutes a public health problem by enhancing the risk for diseases such as diabetes, fatty liver disease and atherosclerosis. Together these diseases form a cluster referred to as the metabolic syndrome.

An important factor behind obesity complications is the fat cell (adipocyte). Adipocytes release large amounts of free fatty acids which regulate insulin action and the metabolism of glucose and lipids in skeletal muscle and liver. They also secrete hormones, inflammatory proteins and other substances with peripheral effects on blood vessels, appetite, energy homeostasis, blood pressure and glucose as well as lipid metabolism. Thus, disturbances in the normal functioning of fat cells have significant consequences on the health of an individual. Despite the importance of the fat mass very little is known about the maintenance of fat cells in humans, how different fat depots are regulated and how, or if, this is altered in obesity.

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Adipose tissue

Lipid turnover and cell age are studied using radiocarbon dating. By studying cell turnover in a variety of different adipose depots (such as various subcutaneous adipose depots as well as visceral depots) we aim to better understand the regulation of the fat mass in humans. Understanding the dynamics of adipocyte turnover may shed new light on potential treatments for obesity.



Group Members

Kirsty Spalding

Senior researcher

Originally from Australia, I completed my PhD in the field of neuroscience at the University of Western Australia. This was followed by postdoctoral studies at the Karolinska Institute, Sweden, where I switched from studying neuronal cell death to neuronal birth. During the later stages of my postdoctoral period I started a side project looking at fat cell turnover in human adipose tissue. This project developed in to several more projects and now the major interest of my research group is the turnover and maintenance of human adipose tissue, in health and pathology.

Lena Appelsved

Laboratory engineer

I have a Bachelor of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology at KI. I have been working in the Spalding group as a lab manager since 2012. Between 1993 and 2012 I was working as a research scientist at AstraZeneca R&D, CNS and Pain. I have 3 years experience at a Clinical Immunology lab at Huddinge hospital as a laboratory technician. I have many administrative tasks in the group, but also contribute to various scientific project.

Christina Jones


I am investigating podocyte regeneration in the human kidney, using radiocarbon dating of human cells to define cell turnover dynamics in kidney health and disease.

Qian Li

PhD student

I am studying the biological mechanisms underlying adipocyte turnover and obesity development, performing in vivo and in vitro studies with mouse and human white adipose tissues.

Keng-Yeh Fu

PhD student

I am investigating human mature adipocyte and preadipocyte turnover rates from both visceral and subcutaneous fat depots using radiocarbon dating, in lean and obese individuals.

Helena Silva Cascales

Post doc

I am studying the molecular mechanisms mediating adipocyte turnover in white adipose tissue from healthy and metabolically unhealthy patients to understand the factors that contribute to the development of metabolic disease.

Andrea Mosqueda

I complete my PhD in Nutrigenomics and Personalized Nutrition. The aim of my postdoctoral fellowship is to understand whether adipose tissue consist of subsets of adipocytes with different functions, potentially coming from different origins, the project investigates the heterogeneity of human adipocytes.

Arthe Raajendiran


I have a background in human adipocyte progenitor cells and their functional heterogeneity. I focus on deconstructing mature adipocyte heterogeneity at a single-cell level to identify the subsets of adipocytes promoting metabolic health and disease in humans.

Paloma Ruiz de Castroviejo Teba


After finishing my bachelor in biochemistry, I am now in Kirsty Spalding's group participating in the kidney regeneration project.

Previous members in the group

Carolina Hagberg

Firoozeh Salehzadeh

Mervi Hyvönen

Viviana Kozina

Maria Azorin Ortũno

Beatriz Rosón Burgo

Azadeh Khosravi

Banafsheh Kadkhodaei

Eleni Terezaki

Endre Kiss

Debajit Bhowmick

Maria Kutschke

Olga Shilkova

Parvin Kumar

Anitta Kinga Sárvári

Pauline Ocaya

Manizheh Izadi

Selected Publications

Adipose lipid turnover and long-term changes in body weight.
Arner P, Bernard S, Appelsved L, Fu KY, Andersson DP, Salehpour M, et al
Nat. Med. 2019 09;25(9):1385-1389

Mature Human White Adipocytes Cultured under Membranes Maintain Identity, Function, and Can Transdifferentiate into Brown-like Adipocytes.
Harms MJ, Li Q, Lee S, Zhang C, Kull B, Hallen S, et al
Cell Rep 2019 04;27(1):213-225.e5

Comprehensive human cell-type methylation atlas reveals origins of circulating cell-free DNA in health and disease.
Moss J, Magenheim J, Neiman D, Zemmour H, Loyfer N, Korach A, et al
Nat Commun 2018 11;9(1):5068

Transforming Growth Factor-β3 Regulates Adipocyte Number in Subcutaneous White Adipose Tissue.
Petrus P, Mejhert N, Corrales P, Lecoutre S, Li Q, Maldonado E, et al
Cell Rep 2018 10;25(3):551-560.e5

Flow Cytometry of Mouse and Human Adipocytes for the Analysis of Browning and Cellular Heterogeneity.
Hagberg CE, Li Q, Kutschke M, Bhowmick D, Kiss E, Shabalina IG, et al
Cell Rep 2018 09;24(10):2746-2756.e5

Adipocyte triglyceride turnover is independently associated with atherogenic dyslipidemia.
Frayn K, Bernard S, Spalding K, Arner P
J Am Heart Assoc 2012 Dec;1(6):e003467

Impact of fat mass and distribution on lipid turnover in human adipose tissue.
Spalding K, Bernard S, Näslund E, Salehpour M, Possnert G, Appelsved L, et al
Nat Commun 2017 05;8():15253

Transplanted Bone Marrow-Derived Cells Contribute to Human Adipogenesis.
Rydén M, Uzunel M, Hård J, Borgström E, Mold J, Arner E, et al
Cell Metab. 2015 Sep;22(3):408-17

Adrenergically stimulated blood flow in brown adipose tissue is not dependent on thermogenesis.
Abreu-Vieira G, Hagberg C, Spalding K, Cannon B, Nedergaard J
Am. J. Physiol. Endocrinol. Metab. 2015 May;308(9):E822-9

Adult Neurogenesis in Humans.
Bergmann O, Spalding K, Frisén J
Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol 2015 Jul;7(7):a018994

Transplanted Bone Marrow-Derived Cells Contribute to Human Adipogenesis.
Rydén M, Uzunel M, Hård J, Borgström E, Mold J, Arner E, et al
Cell Metab. 2015 Sep;22(3):408-17

Maintenance of white adipose tissue in man.
Hyvönen M, Spalding K
Int. J. Biochem. Cell Biol. 2014 Nov;56():123-32

Analysis of radiocarbon, stable isotopes and DNA in teeth to facilitate identification of unknown decedents.
Alkass K, Saitoh H, Buchholz B, Bernard S, Holmlund G, Senn D, et al
PLoS ONE 2013 ;8(7):e69597

Dynamics of hippocampal neurogenesis in adult humans.
Spalding K, Bergmann O, Alkass K, Bernard S, Salehpour M, Huttner H, et al
Cell 2013 Jun;153(6):1219-1227

Personal identification of cold case remains through combined contribution from anthropological, mtDNA, and bomb-pulse dating analyses.
Speller C, Spalding K, Buchholz B, Hildebrand D, Moore J, Mathewes R, et al
J. Forensic Sci. 2012 Sep;57(5):1354-60

Dynamics of human adipose lipid turnover in health and metabolic disease.
Arner P, Bernard S, Salehpour M, Possnert G, Liebl J, Steier P, et al
Nature 2011 Sep;478(7367):110-3

Dynamics of fat cell turnover in humans.
Spalding K, Arner E, Westermark P, Bernard S, Buchholz B, Bergmann O, et al
Nature 2008 Jun;453(7196):783-7

Forensics: age written in teeth by nuclear tests.
Spalding K, Buchholz B, Bergman L, Druid H, Frisén J
Nature 2005 Sep;437(7057):333-4

Retrospective birth dating of cells in humans.
Spalding K, Bhardwaj R, Buchholz B, Druid H, Frisén J
Cell 2005 Jul;122(1):133-43