The lymphatic vasculature plays a pivotal role in maintaining tissue fluid homeostasis, immune surveillance, and lipid uptake in the gastrointestinal organs. Therefore, impaired function of the lymphatic vessels caused by genetic defects, infection, trauma, or surgery leads to the abnormal accrual of lymph fluid in the tissue and culminates in the swelling of affected tissues, known as lymphedema. Lymphedema causes impaired wound healing, compromised immune defense, and, in rare case, lymphangiosarcoma. Although millions of people suffer from lymphedema worldwide, no effective therapy is currently available. In addition, recent advances in cancer biology have disclosed an indispensable function of the lymphatic vessel in tumor growth and metastasis. Therefore, understanding the detailed mechanisms governing lymphatic vessel formation and function in pathophysiologic conditions is essential to prevent or treat these diseases. We review the developmental processes of the lymphatic vessels and postnatal lymphatic neovascularization, focusing on the role of recently identified bone marrow-derived podoplanin-expressing (podoplanin(+)) cells as lymphatic endothelial progenitor cells.
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