Observations on the prenatal development of human lymphatic vessels with focus on basic structural elements of lymph flow.
Lymphat Res Biol. 2008
The prenatal development of human lymphatic systems has not attracted enough attention by lymphatic researchers in the past. Yet clearly these critical, early events determine the fate and function of the human lymphatic system.
Methods and Results:
The main focus of these studies was to investigate the embryonic development of human lymphangions including lymphatic valves and muscle cells, to better understand the prenatal formation of basic structural elements of lymph flow. This review in most of its parts is a short summary of the findings. It provides important information necessary for understanding the development and functioning of the human lymphatic system.
The structural basis of the active lymph transport system-the lymphatic muscle cells and lymphatic valves-which is absolutely necessary for all functions of lymphatic system, is already formed during the first half of the prenatal development in humans. During the second half of this development maturation of this system is already underway. The enlargement of lymphatic muscle cells together with increases in their quantity leads to formation of the multi-layered lymphatic vessel wall, able to develop contractions strong enough to propel lymph downstream of the lymphatic channels against gravity in bipedal humans. The development of the competent valves in lymphatic vessels occurs at the same time creating the ground for effective net, unidirectional lymph flow. The data summarized here represents some of the first systematic studies of the prenatal development of lymphatic muscle cells and valves in humans.