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Genome-Wide Discovery and Functional Analysis of Novel Genes in Lymphangiogenesis


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Last Update: June 23, 2009




Research of the lymphatic system









Lymphangiogenomics is an Integrated Project of the European Commission´s Sixth Framework Programme for Life Sciences, Genomics, and Biotechnology for Health (LSHG-CT-2004-503573) with 13 participating consortium members. Its aim is to thoroughly dissect the processes of lymphangiogenesis and to compare them with angiogenesis at the genetic, molecular, cellular, and functional level.

The lymphatic vasculature is essential for the maintenance of fluid balance in the body, for immune defence, and for the uptake of dietary fat. Absent or damaged lymphatic vessels may lead to lymphedema, a chronic and disfiguring swelling of the extremities, sometimes necessitating the amputation of the affected limb. In addition, lymphatic vessels promote metastatic spread of cancer cells to distant organs - a leading cause of death in patients with cancer, and a major obstacle in the design of effective therapies. The lymphatic vessels were identified hundreds of years ago, yet very limited understanding exists of their development, function, and molecular mechanisms underlying their disease process. The aim of this project is to discover novel genes important for lymphatic vascular versus blood vascular development and function and to study the functional role and therapeutic potential of their gene products in lymphangiogenesis using state-of-the-art technologies. The methods we use include large-scale knockout and knock-down of the mouse genome, the embryonic stem (ES) technology, knock-down of zebra fish genes by morpholino-antisense and positional cloning of disease susceptibility genes involved in lymphangiogenesis. These studies will provide fundamental new understanding of the molecular and cellular basis of lymphangiogenesis and therefore enable scientists to develop therapies to suppress the growth of lymphatic vessels (e.g. for cancer, inflammatory diseases) or to stimulate their growth (e.g. for tissue ischemia, lymphedema). The Integrated Project “Lymphangiogenomics” puts forward ambitious, competitive research objectives addressing biological processes of high medical importance using a multidisciplinary analysis and validation approach.