Lymphatic vessels carry the plasma that gets squeezed out of blood vessels back to the heart, along with white blood cells. Their growth is called lymphangiogenesis (LA). Sometimes, LA aiming to get the correct fluid balance in tissues, can actually contribute to diseases. Herpes simplex keratitis (HSK) affects the cornea – the clear dome that covers the eyeball – and is the most common infectious cause of blindness in developed countries. Scientists studying what controls LA found that a protein called gal-8 promotes it, and that eliminating gal-8 in mice reduced the damage caused by HSK. The image shows gal-8 (green) and the structural molecule collagen (red) in an injured mouse cornea, with the cell nuclei in blue. The researchers are also investigating how gal-8 interacts with other molecules key to vessel growth. Understanding LA better could help in many conditions, including diabetes and rejection of transplanted organs.
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