Published in PNAS, the study was led by Dr. Shira Landau and conducted in the laboratory of Professor Shulamit Levenberg of the Technion Faculty of Biomedical Engineering.
This development could lead to a better understanding of lymphatic vessel generation, which could have implications for treatment of lymphedema and more lifelike tissue flaps.
Lymphatic vessels are similar to veins and they collect the fluid between the cells in all body tissues. This lymphatic fluid is collected by lymph capillaries, and transported via larger lymphatic vessels through lymph nodes, before emptying into major veins.
The lymphatic system plays an important role in the body's immune response, and damage to the lymphatic vessels results in swelling known as lymphedema, which has no cure.
Dr. Landau and her researchers grew human lymphatic vessels, along with blood vessels and other supporting cells, creating engineered tissue with a functioning vessel network. This engineered tissue was implanted into a mouse and successfully integrated with the mouse's lymph and blood vessels.
Lymphedema, which currently lacks treatment, could be treated in the future by implanting functional networks of lymph vessels, grown with the patient's own cells, that would merge with the subject's system.