Investigators at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital settled a century-old debate on the origin of the mammalian lymphatic vasculaturethe network of vessels and capillaries critical to various essential housekeeping functions in the body. The finding holds the promise for the development of new therapies for lymphatic system disorders, the researchers said.
The St. Jude team used various mouse models to demonstrate that the lymphatic vasculature arises in the embryo from veins by means of continuous release from the veins of cells that multiply and then migrate to different parts of the body.
Conclusively determining how the lymphatic vasculature develops in the embryo is an important step in fully understanding the mechanisms that form this vital network of vessels, according to Guillermo Oliver, Ph.D., a member of the St. Jude Department of Genetics and Tumor Cell Biology.
This work is a major contribution in the long-term strategy of promoting the growth of new lymphatic vessels in people suffering from different forms of lymphatic disease that are either inherited or acquired after birth, Oliver said. The detailed characterization of the formation of a normal, healthy lymphatic vasculature is central to our efforts to prevent, diagnose and cure lymphatic vasculature disorders. Oliver is senior author of a report on this work that appears in the October 1 issue of Genes & Development. His laboratory previously discovered that the gene Prox1 plays a critical role in development of the lymphatic vasculature.
The lymphatic vasculature drains fluids that normally escape through the thin walls of the tiny blood vessels called capillaries, which provide nutrients for the cells forming the bodys tissues and organs. The lymphatic vasculature reabsorbs much of this fluid, called lymph, from the spaces surrounding the cells. Failure of lymph transport promotes lymphoedema, a disfiguring, disabling and occasionally life-threate
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St. Jude Children's Research Hospital