Swartz Group

Cancer metastasis, lymphedema, lipid transport, and immune cell function all depend on lymphatic function or dysfunction, and are all tied to interstitial fluid balance and transport. The lymphatic system is part of the circulation; it drains fluid, solutes, and macromolecules from the interstitial space and returns them to the blood. It also is a critical component of the immune system; immune cells traffic through lymphatic vessels and reside in lymph nodes, where they communicate with each other and can become activated. Cancer cells also utilize lymphatic vessels, and likely interstitial flow, to spread to distant sites throughout the body. Lymphedema occurs when lymphatic function is not optimal, and causes irreversible tissue remodeling that becomes exacerbated with time and for which there is no cure or treatment, other than massage and bandaging. Finally, since lymphatic vessels drain lipids (in the form of chylomicrons) from the gut, they play important roles in lipid trafficking and possibly metabolism. Despite its importance, the regulatory biology of lymphatic function is poorly understood.

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