James Moore Modelling Transport in the Lymphatics: The Inner Workings and Failings of the Body’s Sewer System
James Moore - Imperial College London, UK
Session chair: To be announced

Abstract : Lymphatic vessels play an important role in maintaining fluid balance by returning interstitial fluid and proteins to the blood. This system also plays a crucial role in transporting immune cells into lymph nodes where adaptive immunity is formed. Cancer cells exploit the lymphatic system to spread to other parts of the body. All of the deadliest forms of cancer spread via lymphatics, and often set up secondary tumours in other parts of the body such as the brain, lungs and bone marrow. Approximately 90% of all cancer deaths are due to these secondary tumours. However, knowledge of the human lymphatic system is severely limited by the lack of technologies to measure pressure, flow rate or diameter in any vessel. Interstitial fluid which has been transported out of the walls of small blood vessels is collected by highly porous and largely passive initial lymphatic vessels, which converge into collecting lymphatic vessels, featuring one-way valves and mural musculature. Lymphatic muscle cells actively contract to push fluid centrally. Computational modelling has played an important role in informing our understanding of lymphatic pumping, such as how the system generates the suction required to draw in fluid from interstitial tissue spaces, many of which exhibit subatmospheric pressures. Disruptions to lymphatic pumping often result in an incurable swelling referred to as lymphoedema. Improving our understanding of lymphatic function across multiple length and time scales will play a role in developing clinical interventions to prevent and cure these devastating disease processes.