The lymphatic system is implicated in interstitial fluid balance regulation, immune cell trafficking, oedema and cancer metastasis. However, the sequence of events that initiate and coordinate lymphatic vessel development (lymphangiogenesis) remains obscure. In effect, the understanding of physiological regulation of lymphatic vasculature has been overshadowed by the greater emphasis focused on angiogenesis, and delayed by a lack of specific markers, thereby limiting this field to no more than a descriptive characterization. Recently, new insights into lymphangiogenesis research have been due to the discovery of lymphatic-specific markers and growth factors of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) family, such as VEGF-C and VEGF-D. Studies using transgenic mice overexpressing VEGF-C and VEGF-D have demonstrated a crucial role for these factors in tumour lymphangiogenesis. Knowledge of lymphatic development has now been redefined at the molecular level, providing an interesting target for innovative therapies. This review highlights the recent insights and advances into the field of lymphatic vascular research, outlining the most important aspects of the embryo development, structure, specific markers and methods applied for studying lymphangiogenesis. Finally, molecular mechanisms involved in the regulation of lymphangiogenesis are described.
- Endothelial cells
- Growth factors
- Tumor progression
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)