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Adv Anat Embryol Cell Biol. 2014;214:41-54. doi: 10.1007/978-3-7091-1646-3_4.

Plasticity of airway lymphatics in development and disease.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy, Comprehensive Cancer Center, Cardiovascular Research Institute, University of California-San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, 94143, USA.


The dynamic nature of lymphatic vessels is reflected by structural and functional modifications that coincide with changes in their environment. Lymphatics in the respiratory tract undergo rapid changes around birth, during adaptation to air breathing, when lymphatic endothelial cells develop button-like intercellular junctions specialized for efficient fluid uptake and transport. In inflammatory conditions, lymphatic vessels proliferate and undergo remodeling to accommodate greater plasma leakage and immune cell trafficking. However, the newly formed lymphatics are abnormal, and resolution of inflammation is not accompanied by complete reversal of the lymphatic vessel changes back to the baseline. As the understanding of lymphatic plasticity advances, approaches for eliminating the abnormal vessels and improving the functionality of those that remain move closer to reality. This chapter provides an overview of what is known about lymphatic vessel growth, remodeling, and other forms of plasticity that occur during development or inflammation, with an emphasis on the respiratory tract. Also addressed is the limited reversibility of changes in lymphatics during the resolution of inflammation.

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