Novel Discoveries Leading To Targeted Treatment Of Lymphatic Diseases

A gene responsible for lymphatic vessel formation

Novel discoveries at the University of Helsinki, Finland, about the development of the lymphatic network may help researchers to better understand the mechanisms of cancer and its metastasis, and also diseases such as lymphedema, wound healing and inflammatory and autoimmune disorders.

Lymphatic vascular network is essential in transporting the tissue fluids and immune cells from tissues to the nearby lymph nodes and back to the blood circulation. Thus, this network of vessels is crucial in provoking body’s immune defense mechanisms. A study published as advance online publication of ‘Nature Immunology’ (web edition 23.11.2003) describes VEGF-C as an essential regulator of lymphatic vessel development. Dr. Karkkainen and collaborators from the University of Helsinki show that in the absence of this growth factor the lymphatic development is interrupted, which results in fluid accumulation in tissues and embryonic lethality. VEGF-C haploinsufficiency gene results in delayed and abnormal lymphatic development and swelling of the limbs, in a disease called lymphedema.

Within the past couple of years, there has been an unprecedented explosion of lymphatic biology research. The current study was done in one of the leading laboratories in the field of lymphangiogenesis, in the group lead by Dr. Kari Alitalo from the University of Helsinki, which has reported major advances in the fields of angiogenesis, lymphangiogenesis and cancer biology in recent years. The authors believe that the current study helps in developing more targeted treatments of various lymphatic diseases. Now, for the first time there are exciting new developments making treatment possible for the over one hundred million people worldwide who suffer from diseases related to the lymphatic system.

Based on the siting index (impact factor), Nature Immunology is the 7th best among 5876 ranked journals.

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