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New analysis system developed

Researchers have developed a method for the in vitro culture of lymphatic vessels

Intensive research activities are currently focused on how diseases can spread in the body by way of the lymphatic system and also, what leads to diseases of the lymphatic system. A network of internationally-renowned scientists, including Prof. Dr. Jonathan Sleeman from the Medical Faculty of Mannheim at the University of Heidelberg, has now achieved an important methological breakthrough in this field.

The researchers have developed a method that enables them to culture lymphatic vessels under laboratory conditions (in vitro). The project, which is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the EU, is coordinated by Prof. Dr. Agnes Noël from the University of Liège (Belgium). The goal of the project is to gain a better understanding of how new lymphatic vessels are formed, a process known as lymphangiogenesis. The assay, which is known as the “lymphatic ring model”, enables the investigation of the different steps involved in lymphangiogenesis, including the generation of new lymphatic vessels and the differentiation of the different cell types into lymphatic vessels. The assay also enables the researchers to identify factors that regulate the generation of new lymphatic vessels.

The research was published on the 20th April 2008 in Nature Methods (Françoise Bruyère et al., Modelling lymphangiogenesis in a three-dimensional culture system). The in vitro culture assay uses thoracic ducts from mice. Embedded in a collagen gel, these lymphatic vessel fragments develop into a three-dimensional, branched lymphatic system, as can be observed with an electron microscope and by using immunological detection methods. “In addition, a computer-assisted method enables us to quantify the newly formed lymphatic vessels,” said Prof. Dr. Sleeman.

MMP-2 was identified as an important lymphangiogenesis factor

The targeted silencing of genes in what are known as knock-out mice, enables the researchers to find genes that are involved in the development of lymphatic vessels. Using the lymphatic ring assay, the scientists isolated and cultured the thoracic duct of genetically-modified mice lacking the MMP-2 matrix metalloproteinase gene. They found that the lack of MMP-2 impedes lymphangiogenesis in these mice and hence identified MMP-2 as an important lymphangiogenesis factor. The new method enables the scientists to find out how and whether certain genetic defects affect the development of the lymphatic system in mice.

Source: University Hospital Mannheim - 29th April 2008
Further information:
Prof. Dr. Jonathan Sleeman
Centre for Biomedicine and Medical Technology Mannheim
Medical Faculty Mannheim at the University of Heidelberg
Tridomus Building, House C
Ludolf-Krehl-Straße 13-17
68167 Mannheim
Tel.: +49 (0)621/383-9955
E-mail: sleeman@medma.uni-heidelberg.de
Website address: https://www.gesundheitsindustrie-bw.de/en/article/press-release/new-analysis-system-developed