"A rising tide lifts all boats": Lymphatic Impact Researchers

by Erik Lontok

We’ve long believed that advancing lipedema biology would impact the scientific disciplines and fields close to lipedema – in particular, lymphatics research. So, in honor of Lymphedema Awareness Month (March), we would like to highlight a few of the LF grantees whose research efforts will not only improve the way we define and diagnose lipedema, but also advance our overall understanding of the lymphatic system.

Kim To and Brandon Dixon, Georgia Institute of Technology

  • Input: Mouse model
  • Hypothesis: Targeted nanoparticle-based delivery of calcium channel activators to lymphatics will result in enhanced lymphatic pump function and a reduction in the local adipose tissue volume, while minimizing unwanted off-target effects to the blood circulation.
  • Potential: Kim’s research has the potential to serve as a drug delivery system targeted to the lymphatic vessels. The best part is that she is designing a vehicle – with the possibility that different kinds of drugs may ride in it!

 Rene Haegerling, St George's University of London

  • Input: Tissue sample
  • Hypothesis: Light-sheet microscopy-based imaging techniques will allow visualization of the 3D microanatomy of lipedematous tissue and could therefore elucidate vascular alteration in patient tissues.
  • Potential: A more detailed knowledge about the vascular architecture will improve our understanding of the disease and could result in a diagnostic test for lipedema. Rene’s previous research has generated detailed 3D images of control, lymphedema, lymphangiomatosis tissue samples. Addition of lipedema to this panel will allow us to compare the level of vascularization across all the conditions and visualization of the impact of lymphatic diseases.

 Michelle Foster, Colorado State University

  • Input: Mouse model
  • Hypothesis: Fat dysregulation that occurs with lipedema is caused by aberrant estrogen signaling.
  • Potential: Foster’s mouse model has the potential to assess the downstream impact of estrogen dysregulation on the immune state and function of the lymphatic capillaries, vessels, and node.

Adri Chakraborty and Joe Rutkowski, Texas A&M University

  • Input: Mouse model
  • Hypothesis: Increased adipose tissue growth in a VEGF-D mouse model will result in altered lymphatic density, nerve function, and inflammatory profile that would contribute towards understanding lipedema physiology.
  • Potential: Adri’s work will expand our understanding of how lymphatics might ideally grow to support increased adipose deposition.

 Manus Donahue and Rachelle Crescenzi, Vanderbilt University

  • Input: Study participants
  • Hypothesis: Lower extremity (i) sodium and (ii) fat-to-water ratios, as measured using non-invasive MRI, are uniquely elevated in patients with lipedema relative to body-mass-index matched healthy adults and adults with lymphedema.
  • Potential: If confirmed, findings could provide information for a quantitative diagnostic test that distinguishes lipedema from other conditions with overlapping external presentation. Specifically, Manus’ direct comparison of lipedema and lymphedema may allow for a differential diagnostic between the two diseases.

We are enthusiastic about the progress being made by these investigators, and look forward to sharing research outcomes as they become available.  In the meantime, if you’d like to learn more about lymphatic impact researchers, please also see:

Thank you for taking the time to learn about our efforts to expand the lymphatic research space.  We look forward to helping raise the collective tide around lipedema and lymphatics research.