Platelet factor 4 is a biomarker for lymphatic-promoted disorders

JCI Insight. 2020 Jul 9;5(13):e135109. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.135109.


Genetic or acquired defects of the lymphatic vasculature often result in disfiguring, disabling, and, occasionally, life-threatening clinical consequences. Advanced forms of lymphedema are readily diagnosed clinically, but more subtle presentations often require invasive imaging or other technologies for a conclusive diagnosis. On the other hand, lipedema, a chronic lymphatic microvascular disease with pathological accumulation of subcutaneous adipose tissue, is often misdiagnosed as obesity or lymphedema; currently there are no biomarkers or imaging criteria available for a conclusive diagnosis. Recent evidence suggests that otherwise-asymptomatic defective lymphatic vasculature likely contributes to an array of other pathologies, including obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, and neurological disorders. Accordingly, identification of biomarkers of lymphatic malfunction will provide a valuable resource for the diagnosis and clinical differentiation of lymphedema, lipedema, obesity, and other potential lymphatic pathologies. In this paper, we profiled and compared blood plasma exosomes isolated from mouse models and from human subjects with and without symptomatic lymphatic pathologies. We identified platelet factor 4 (PF4/CXCL4) as a biomarker that could be used to diagnose lymphatic vasculature dysfunction. Furthermore, we determined that PF4 levels in circulating blood plasma exosomes were also elevated in patients with lipedema, supporting current claims arguing that at least some of the underlying attributes of this disease are also the consequence of lymphatic defects.

Keywords: Diagnostics; Vascular Biology; endothelial cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / pathology
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / analysis*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Exosomes / metabolism
  • Lipedema / diagnosis
  • Lipedema / metabolism*
  • Lipedema / physiopathology
  • Lymphedema / metabolism*
  • Lymphedema / physiopathology
  • Mice
  • Obesity / pathology
  • Platelet Factor 4 / metabolism*
  • Subcutaneous Fat / pathology


  • Biomarkers
  • Platelet Factor 4