The new era of the lymphatic system: no longer secondary to the blood vascular system

Cold Spring Harb Perspect Med. 2012 Apr;2(4):a006445. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a006445.


The blood and lymphatic systems are the two major circulatory systems in our body. Although the blood system has been studied extensively, the lymphatic system has received much less scientific and medical attention because of its elusive morphology and mysterious pathophysiology. However, a series of landmark discoveries made in the past decade has begun to change the previous misconception of the lymphatic system to be secondary to the more essential blood vascular system. In this article, we review the current understanding of the development and pathology of the lymphatic system. We hope to convince readers that the lymphatic system is no less essential than the blood circulatory system for human health and well-being.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Endothelial Cells / physiology*
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Lymphangiogenesis / physiology*
  • Lymphangioleiomyomatosis / blood
  • Lymphangioleiomyomatosis / pathology
  • Lymphatic System / anatomy & histology*
  • Lymphatic System / cytology
  • Lymphatic System / embryology
  • Lymphatic System / metabolism
  • Lymphatic System / physiology*
  • Lymphedema / drug therapy
  • Lymphedema / genetics*
  • Lymphedema / parasitology
  • Receptors, Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / metabolism
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factors / metabolism


  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factors
  • prospero-related homeobox 1 protein
  • Receptors, Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor