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Tadpole soon to help in the fight against cancer and lymphedema

until now. Lymphatic vessels can be studied in mice but this takes time and is extremely complex. Moreover, a study of mice only enables the examination of gene per gene, which complicates revealing the combined action between various genetic factors. For efficient research smaller model organisms are used, such as the zebrafish, which is popular in the study of the blood vessel system. But the zebrafish also offers little comfort, as it does not have any lymphatic vessels.

In the early 20th century studies suggested that tadpoles do have lymphatic vessels. This urged Peter Carmeliet and his research group to examine whether tadpoles can form a suitable model system for the study of the lymphatic vessel network. Tadpoles can easily be genetically modified, which is why they are an ideal model system in which it is relatively easy to identify genes that are important in the development of complex biological structures like lymphatic vessels.

Unraveling the lymphatic vessel system through tadpoles

With their research, the research group op Peter Carmeliet indicated that tadpoles are extremely suitable for the study of lymphatic vessels. To do this they used Prox1, a protein that is essential for the formation of lymphatic vessels. With the help of coloration techniques they visualized the areas in tadpoles where Prox1 is made: the lymphatic vessels. With the same coloration techniques the researchers indicated that the development of lymphatic vessels in tadpoles is comparable to mice and humans. A second part of their research was altering tadpoles in such a way that they make much less Prox1 than normal tadpoles. This resulted in a badly developed lymphatic vessel system, because of which the tadpoles showed signs of lymphedema. It did not have any effect on the blood vessel system.

With these results the VIB researchers are the first to prove that tadpoles are perfect model organisms for the study of lymphatic vessels. In the future
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Source:VIB, Flanders Interuniversity Institute of Biotechnology


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