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Tadpole soon to help in the fight against cancer and lymphedema

Lymph circulates in our bodies through a complex network of lymphatic vessels, of which little is known. This network is, however, of major importance for the support of the immune system and the fluid in our body. Researchers from the Flanders Interuniversity Institute for Biotechnology (VIB) connected with the Catholic University of Leuven, are the first to indicate that this network can be studied with the help of tadpoles. This accelerates research of the lymphatic vessel network. With tadpoles one can now very quickly identify new genes that play a part in the development and functioning of the lymphatic vessel network. This is a first step in the search for solutions for illnesses related to the lymphatic vessel network, such as cancer and lymphedema.

Lymph: a very important colorless fluid

Fluid and proteins leak out of the blood vessels during blood circulation in the body. A network of lymphatic vessels catches this extravasated colorless fluid, lymph, and transports it back to the blood vessel network. The lymphatic vessel network is of major importance. It is essential for regulating fluid in the body and for the support of the immune system that protects us from pathogenic organisms. Faults in the making or functioning of this network cause many disorders, such as inflammatory and infectious diseases and lymphedema (a swelling caused by water retention). On the other hand, a well-functioning lymphatic vessel network can simplify the spread of cancer cells. A thorough understanding of this network is thus essential for seeking a solution for these diseases.

The search for a suitable model system

As far back as in 1627 Gasparo Asellius discovered the lymphatic vessels as 'milky veins'. Yet the lymphatic network has not been studied much until now and is therefore as good as unknown, quite amazing seeing its importance for our health. One of the reasons for this lack of study is the fact that there was not a good model system
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Source:VIB, Flanders Interuniversity Institute of Biotechnology


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