New findings cast light on lymphatic system, key player in human health

New findings cast light on lymphatic system, key player in human health
Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation scientist Satish Srinivasan, Ph.D. Credit: OMRF

Scientists at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation have broken new ground in understanding how the lymphatic system works, potentially opening the door for future therapies.

The lymphatic system is a network of vessels and that spans the entire body. It is critical for good health and for the body to function properly. Defects in cause lymphedema, a characterized by dramatic and painful swelling in the limbs that often leads to infections. Lymphedema can result from congenital mutations, surgery, radiation treatment for cancer or infection, and there is currently no cure. In addition to lymphedema, defects in the lymphatic system have been linked to a wide range of health consequences: cancer, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer's disease and obesity.

Sathish Srinivasan, Ph.D., and Boksik Cha, Ph.D., at OMRF previously discovered that a particular —known as the Wnt signaling pathway—regulates the development of the human lymphatic vascular system. In new research, published in the journal Cell Reports, they've found "the nuts and bolts of this important pathway."

"We have identified the signaling molecules that activate this pathway," said Srinivasan. "We also have learned which cells produce the , how they are sensed by the cells and how they are used in lymphatic development."

Srinivasan was recruited to OMRF from St. Jude's Children's Research Hospital in 2013. His lab at OMRF has already identified several target genes for lymphedema. Srinivasan said that, after further study, this new information could eventually help researchers develop better therapeutic options for lymphedema and associated disorders.

"This signaling pathway has proved difficult to study, because it is complex and so little is known about how it functions normally, let alone when it goes wrong," said Srinivasan. "Wnt signaling is aggravated and increased in breast cancer and colon cancer, but it is deregulated in diseases like Alzheimer's and lymphedema."

Srinivasan said drug companies are interested in finding molecules that can be targeted, either to promote or inhibit Wnt signaling, depending on the disease. "Our goal is to find whether such drugs could be used to treat humans with and see if their disease can be managed, made less severe or even cured," he said.

Explore further

Treating the inflammation in lymphedema

More information: Cell Reports (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2018.09.049
Journal information: Cell Reports

Provided by Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation
Citation: New findings cast light on lymphatic system, key player in human health (2018, October 16) retrieved 18 June 2019 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Oct 17, 2018
Impairment of lymphatic circulation by tight clothing is something that needs to be addressed. I am a medical anthropologist breast cancer researcher and co-author of Dressed to Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras. The problem is that tight bras interfere with lymphatic circulation, causing chronic, mild lymphedema with consequent breast pain, cysts, and tissue toxification. Eventually, this leads to cancer. Keep in mind that lymphatic impairment is immune impairment.

When will medicine start to realize that the human body is not just the product of biology, but also of culture. When people alter body shape with tight clothing they interfere with physiology as well as anatomy.

Unfortunately, there is no drug that can undo the effects of tight clothing. As you see from this article, it's all about coming up with new drugs. This profit-oriented, drug-focused approach blinds medicine to obvious, non-drug solutions.

Oct 18, 2018
Most stroke victims suffer from lymphedema. I am one and I learned that it can be both a disease and a defensive mechanism. On the good side it works with the skin to rid the body of large proteins, dead cells and heavy metals trapped interstitially.

Curing lymphedema begins with making changes in what and when we eat. Fasting is necessary to rid ourselves of our dependencies and cravings for sugar. Time restricted eating can help to affect long term changes in old habits. We can ignore the number of calories consumed, thus it's a painless solution.

Ketosis works but achieving it can cause inflammation. When the gut biome of good and bad microbes, molds and yeasts are killed off from a four day fast, it's hard to distinguish what is causing the inflammation - insulin resistance, IBS, leaky gut, toxins given off from dead and dying microorganisms, or liver and pancreatic disease.

Oct 18, 2018
Sorry. I jumped to the chase. The relationship between hypertension, stroke, and lymphedema are linked thru the fluid mechanics of the lymphatic system and the reversal of same caused by sensory disruption and the loss of communication between the CNS and the PNS. Restoring some communication is of course paramount before any cure could ever be achieved. There's a lot to address there but it is possible. Luckily for us the brain is in the business of mitigating loss and making changes unique to each individual daily, as was proved in studies of identical twins.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more