Lymphatic drainage function and its immunological implications: From dendritic cell homing to vaccine design
The slow interstitial flow that drains fluid from the blood capillaries into the lymphatic capillaries provides transport of macromolecular nutrients to cells in the interstitium. We discuss herein how this flow also provides continuous access to immune cells residing in the lymph nodes of antigens from self or from pathogens residing in the interstitium. We also address mechanisms by which dendritic cells in the periphery sense interstitial flow to home efficiently into the lymphatics after activation, and how lymphatic endothelium can be activated by this flow, including how it can act as a lymphatic morphoregulator. Further, we present concepts on how interstitial flow can be exploited with biomaterial systems to deliver antigen and adjuvant molecules directly into the lymphatics, to target dendritic cells residing in the lymph nodes rather than in the peripheral tissues, using particles that are small enough to be carried along by flow through the network structure of the interstitium. Finally, we present recent work on lymphatic and lymphoid tissue engineering, including how interstitial flow can be used as a design principle. Thus, an understanding of the physiological processes that govern transport in the interstitium guides new understanding of both immune cell interactions with the lymphatics as well as therapeutic interventions exploiting the lymphatics as a target.