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New function for a well-known immune messenger molecule
Date:8/26/2013

their own function directly," says Halin. So far, IL-7 is one out of only few molecules that have been identified to support lymphatic drainage. A few years ago, other researchers discovered that the endogenous growth factor VEGF-C might also be an interesting molecule in this regard.

Insights from an animal model

Halin and her colleagues demonstrated the drainage-supporting function of IL-7 by performing drainage experiments in mice where they injected a blue, albumin-binding dye into the ear skin of the mice. Notably, albumin is an endogenous protein, which can only be transported out of the tissue via the lymphatic vessels. By quantifying the dye that remained in the tissue one day after the injection, the researchers were able to determine how well the lymphatic drainage worked in these laboratory animals.

When performing this experiment in mice lacking a functioning IL-7 receptor, they observed that these mice were only able to remove half as much dye from their ear skin in comparison with mice possessing a functional IL-7 receptor. By contrast, they observed a considerable increase in lymphatic drainage in mice with increased IL-7 production. Finally, in a third experiment, they administered IL-7 protein to unmodified, healthy mice and observed that this therapeutic treatment led to an improvement of lymphatic drainage function.

Already tested in patients

The scientists are now planning to conduct similar experiments in mice in which lymphatic vessels have been surgically destroyed, similarly to the situation found in patients after cancer surgery. Here, the researchers would like to test whether treatment with IL-7 could help to prevent lymphedema or whether IL-7 could even be administered in order to reduce existing lymphedema.

The long-term goal is to explore the potential of an IL-7-based medication for lymphedema. Notably, IL-7 is already being tested in clinical trials, albeit for d
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Contact: Cornelia Halin
cornelia.halin@pharma.ethz.ch
41-446-332-962
ETH Zurich
Source:Eurekalert

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