Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Capillary Action
10 May 2012

Capillary Action

In addition to our blood system, our bodies are permeated by branches and tracts that form our lymphatic system. Lymph vessels pipe unwanted fluid from our tissues to help export waste, debris and toxins. The fluid is filtered and recycled back into our blood. White blood cells also travel throughout this network of specialist plumbing helping to ward off infection. New lymph vessels develop through a process called lymphangiogenesis. Miniscule pipes – capillaries – sprout from pre-existing ones. This is a natural part of wound healing, but is also happens in diseases including cancer and lymphoedema [swelling and inflammation due to abnormal lymph drainage]. Researchers have discovered that new lymph capillaries (shown here in green) project like fingers reaching out from the parent vessel. At their tips, cells (coloured red) divide rapidly extending the vessel. Eventually a whole new lymphatic network will grow from these pioneering sprouts.

Written by Sarah McLusky

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