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Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2006 Jun;290(6):H2295-308. Epub 2006 Jan 6.

Inhibition of active lymph pump by simulated microgravity in rats.

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Department of Medical Physiology, College of Medicine, Cardiovascular Research Institute Division of Lymphatic Biology, Texas A&M University System Health Science Center, 336 Reynolds Medical Bldg., College Station, TX 77843-1114, USA.


During spaceflight the normal head-to-foot hydrostatic pressure gradients are eliminated and body fluids shift toward the head, resulting in a diminished fluid volume in the legs and an increased fluid volume in the head, neck, and upper extremities. Lymphatic function is important in the maintenance of normal tissue fluid volume, but it is not clear how microgravity influences lymphatic pumping. We performed a detailed evaluation of the influence of simulated microgravity on lymphatic diameter, wall thickness, elastance, tone, and other measures of phasic contractility in isolated lymphatics. Head-down tail suspension (HDT) rats were used to simulate the effects of microgravity. Animals were exposed to HDT for 2 wk, after which data were collected and compared with the control non-HDT group. Lymphatics from four regional lymphatic beds (thoracic duct, cervical, mesenteric, and femoral lymphatics) were isolated, cannulated, and pressurized. Input and output pressures were adjusted to apply a range of transmural pressures and flows to the lymphatics. Simulated microgravity caused a potent inhibition of pressure/stretch-stimulated pumping in all four groups of lymphatics. The greatest inhibition was found in cervical lymphatics. These findings presumably are correlated to the cephalic fluid shifts that occur in HDT rats as well as those observed during spaceflight. Flow-dependent pump inhibition was increased after HDT, especially in the thoracic duct. Mesenteric lymphatics were less strongly influenced by HDT, which may support the idea that lymph hydrodynamic conditions in the mesenteric lymphatic during HDT are not dramatically altered.

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