Selective Stimulation of Cardiac Lymphangiogenesis Reduces Myocardial Edema and Fibrosis Leading to Improved Cardiac Function Following Myocardial Infarction

Circulation. 2016 Apr 12;133(15):1484-97; discussion 1497. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.115.020143. Epub 2016 Mar 1.


Background: The lymphatic system regulates interstitial tissue fluid balance, and lymphatic malfunction causes edema. The heart has an extensive lymphatic network displaying a dynamic range of lymph flow in physiology. Myocardial edema occurs in many cardiovascular diseases, eg, myocardial infarction (MI) and chronic heart failure, suggesting that cardiac lymphatic transport may be insufficient in pathology. Here, we investigate in rats the impact of MI and subsequent chronic heart failure on the cardiac lymphatic network. Further, we evaluate for the first time the functional effects of selective therapeutic stimulation of cardiac lymphangiogenesis post-MI.

Methods and results: We investigated cardiac lymphatic structure and function in rats with MI induced by either temporary occlusion (n=160) or permanent ligation (n=100) of the left coronary artery. Although MI induced robust, intramyocardial capillary lymphangiogenesis, adverse remodeling of epicardial precollector and collector lymphatics occurred, leading to reduced cardiac lymphatic transport capacity. Consequently, myocardial edema persisted for several months post-MI, extending from the infarct to noninfarcted myocardium. Intramyocardial-targeted delivery of the vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 3-selective designer protein VEGF-CC152S, using albumin-alginate microparticles, accelerated cardiac lymphangiogenesis in a dose-dependent manner and limited precollector remodeling post-MI. As a result, myocardial fluid balance was improved, and cardiac inflammation, fibrosis, and dysfunction were attenuated.

Conclusions: We show that, despite the endogenous cardiac lymphangiogenic response post-MI, the remodeling and dysfunction of collecting ducts contribute to the development of chronic myocardial edema and inflammation-aggravating cardiac fibrosis and dysfunction. Moreover, our data reveal that therapeutic lymphangiogenesis may be a promising new approach for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases.

Keywords: edema; edema, cardiac; fibrosis; heart failure; lymphatic vessels; therapeutics; vascular endothelial growth factor C; ventricular remodeling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Substitution
  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical
  • Edema / prevention & control*
  • Fibrosis
  • Heart / diagnostic imaging
  • Heart / drug effects
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Lymphangiogenesis / drug effects*
  • Lymphatic Vessels / drug effects
  • Lymphatic Vessels / physiopathology
  • Lymphography
  • Male
  • Myocardial Infarction / complications
  • Myocardial Infarction / therapy*
  • Myocardium / chemistry
  • Myocardium / pathology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / analysis
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor C / analysis
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor C / pharmacology
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor C / therapeutic use*
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-3 / analysis
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-3 / drug effects*


  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor C
  • vascular endothelial growth factor A, rat
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-3