Few breakthrough therapies for cardiovascular diseases have been developed in the past decade. In part, this is because established pathogenetic mechanisms have been successfully exploited without identifying new ones. The identification of new pathogenetic interactions provides the opportunity to reveal an entirely new set of therapeutic strategies for these conditions based on manipulation of lymphatic vessel function. The significance of these studies therefore lies in their potential to identify new causes and novel approaches for the treatment of obesity and cardiovascular disease.
In recent years genetic studies in mice and humans have revealed the first molecular insights into lymphatic vessel biology. We have made some of these seminal and clinically translatable discoveries, including the identification of lymphangiogenic growth factors, transcriptional regulation of lymphatic endothelial identity and regulation of vascular development. Among the recent discoveries are findings that unexpectedly link lymphatic vessel malfunction to obesity and cardiovascular disease processes, such as thrombosis and atherosclerosis. These findings form the conceptual foundation for the studies to be pursued in collaboration with investigators of the Leducq Transatlantic Network of Excellence ⊕ aimed at elucidating the significance of the lymphatic-blood vascular crosstalk and of its role in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease. The finding of novel functional roles of lymphatic vessels is expected to advance our understanding and treatment of important human diseases in the years to come.