Over the past decade, molecular details of lymphatic vessels (lymphatics) have been rapidly acquired due to the identification of lymphatic endothelial-specific markers. Separate from the cardiovascular system, the lymphatic system is also an elaborate network of vessels that are important in normal physiology. Lymphatic vessels have the unique task to regulate fluid homeostasis, assist in immune surveillance, and transport dietary lipids. However, dysfunctional lymphatic vessels can cause pathology, while normal lymphatics can exacerbate pathology. This review summarizes the development and growth of lymphatic vessels in addition to highlighting their critical roles in physiology and pathology. Also, we discuss recent work that suggests a connection between lymphatic dysfunction and cardiovascular disease.
Key words: Cardiovascular disease, inflammation, lymphedema, lymphatic vessels, vegf receptor-3.