Lymph vessels in obesity and cardiovascular disease

European Coordinator:
  • Kari ALITALO, University of Helsinki (Finland)
North American Coordinator:
  • Mark KAHN, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (USA)
  • Hellmut AUGUSTIN, German Cancer Research Center DKFZ, Heidelberg (Germany)
  • Michael DETMAR, ETH (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology), Zurich (Switzerland)
  • Donald MCDONALD, University of California, San Francisco (USA)
  • Emile MOHLER, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (USA)
  • Guillermo OLIVER, Northwestern University, Chicago (USA)
  • Muredach REILLY, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (USA)
  • Marja-Riitta TASKINEN, University of Helsinki (Finland)

Blood vessels deliver nutrients and oxygen to tissues.  Fluid that is pushed out of the blood vessels, which bathes the tissues, is called lymph.  Lymph is drained from the tissues by lymph vessels, which eventually transport the fluid back into the cardiovascular system.  In addition to maintaining tissue fluid balance, lymph vessels absorb ingested fats from the intestines and coordinate immune and inflammation responses.  There is crosstalk between lymph vessels and fat (adipose) tissue, suggesting a possible link between lymph vessel dysfunction, obesity and inflammation.  Lymph vessels are also located in the outer layer (adventitia) of large arteries, where their dysfunction may be important in arterial pathologies such as atherosclerosis and thrombosis.

The largely unexplored relationship between lymph vessels and obesity and cardiovascular disease is the focus of this network, which will study mouse models and human patients to determine the molecular and cellular mechanisms by which lymph vessel dysfunction leads to disease.  For instance, investigators will study how lymph vessels and fat cells communicate with each other; how lymph fluid modulates fat cell growth and activity; how fat cells react to inflammation mediated through lymph vessels; and how lymph vessel dysfunction modifies metabolic traits in patients.  The network will test whether lymph vessels represent a beneficial exit route for lipids and inflammatory cells from atherosclerotic plaques; whether the cells that line the interior surface of lymphatic vessels, like those of blood vessels, can regulate platelet activity and clot formation; and whether manipulation of the lymphatic vessel growth could be beneficial in heart failure.  The network unites leading laboratories in lymph vessel biology to find novel approaches to the prevention and treatment of obesity and cardiovascular disease.