2008 Volume 71 Issue 1 Pages 1-22
The lymphatic system plays important roles in maintaining tissue fluid homeostasis, immune surveillance of the body, and the taking up dietary fat and fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. The lymphatic system is involved in many pathological conditions, including lymphedema, inflammatory diseases, and tumor dissemination. A clear understanding of the organization of the lymphatic vessels in normal conditions would be critically important to develop new treatments for diseases involving the lymphatic vascular system. Therefore, the present paper reviews the organization of the lymphatic vascular system of a variety of organs, including the thyroid gland, lung and pleura, small intestine, cecum and colon in the rat, the diaphragm in the rat, monkey, and human, Peyer's patches and the appendix in the rabbit, and human tonsils. Methods employed include scanning electron microscopy of lymphatic corrosion casts and tissues with or without treatment of alkali maceration technique, transmission electron microscopy of intact tissues, confocal microscopy in conjunction with immunohistochemistry to some lymphatic-specific markers (i.e., LYVE-1 and VEGFR-3), and light microscopy in conjunction with enzyme-histochemistry to 5'-nucleotidase. Some developmental aspects of the lymphatic vessels and lymphedema are also discussed.