The National Institutes of Health has awarded the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation $2.1 million to continue research on the lymphatic system.
OMRF scientist Sathish Srinivasan, Ph.D., received a four-year grant to focus on mechanisms that control the growth of lymphatic vessels.
Lymphatic vessels are one of our two main vessel systems. Blood vessels transport blood, oxygen and nutrients throughout the body. Lymphatic vessels collect lymph – fluids that leak from blood vessels – and return it to the bloodstream.
When lymphatic vessels stop functioning properly, those fluids build up in tissue, resulting in lymphedema, a chronic and potentially dangerous condition marked by painful swelling. Lymphedema can result from surgery, genetic or environmental reasons, or the presence of a cancerous tumor that blocks the normal flow of lymph. There is no known cure.
“Our lab is trying to understand how lymphatic vessels normally form and what molecules regulate their growth,” said Srinivasan, who joined OMRF from St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital in 2013.
Currently, no therapies exist to repair or regrow lymphatic vessels. Srinivasan envisions someday identifying molecules that can mimic the normal flow of lymph in areas affected by lymphedema. This step, he said, could lead to a therapy to regenerate lymphatic vessels.
“If we can promote the growth of these vessels, we can stop the damage caused by lymphedema,” Srinivasan said. “But that’s down the road. First, we need to fully understand the basic mechanisms that promote growth of the lymphatic vessels.”
The grant, 2R01 HL131652-05A1, is funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, a part of NIH.