Fat cells or adipocytes are distributed ubiquitously throughout the body and are often regarded purely as energy stores. However, recently it has become clear that these adipocytes are engine rooms producing large numbers of metabolically active substances with both endocrine and paracrine actions. White adipocytes surround almost every blood vessel in the human body and are collectively termed perivascular adipose tissue (PVAT). It is now well recognized that PVAT not only provides mechanical support for any blood vessels it invests, but also secretes vasoactive and metabolically essential cytokines known as adipokines, which regulate vascular function. The emergence of obesity as a major challenge to our healthcare systems has contributed to the growing interest in adipocyte dysfunction with a view to discovering new pharmacotherapeutic agents to help rescue compromised PVAT function. Very few PVAT studies have been carried out on human tissue. This review will discuss these and the hypotheses generated from such research, as well as highlight the most significant and clinically relevant animal studies showing the most pharmacological promise. Linked Articles This article is part of a themed section on Fat and Vascular Responsiveness. To view the other articles in this section visit © 2011 The British Pharmacological Society.