Lymphangion coordination minimally affects mean flow in lymphatic vessels.
Additional Document Info
The lymphatic system returns interstitial fluid to the central venous circulation, in part, by the cyclical contraction of a series of "lymphangion pumps" in a lymphatic vessel. The dynamics of individual lymphangions have been well characterized in vitro; their frequencies and strengths of contraction are sensitive to both preload and afterload. However, lymphangion interaction within a lymphatic vessel has been poorly characterized because it is difficult to experimentally alter properties of individual lymphangions and because the afterload of one lymphangion is coupled to the preload of another. To determine the effects of lymphangion interaction on lymph flow, we adapted an existing mathematical model of a lymphangion (characterizing lymphangion contractility, lymph viscosity, and inertia) to create a new lymphatic vessel model consisting of several lymphangions in series. The lymphatic vessel model was validated with focused experiments on bovine mesenteric lymphatic vessels in vitro. The model was then used to predict changes in lymph flow with different time delays between onset of contraction of adjacent lymphangions (coordinated case) and with different relative lymphangion contraction frequencies (noncoordinated case). Coordination of contraction had little impact on mean flow. Furthermore, orthograde and retrograde propagations of contractile waves had similar effects on flow. Model results explain why neither retrograde propagation of contractile waves nor the lack of electrical continuity between lymphangions adversely impacts flow. Because lymphangion coordination minimally affects mean flow in lymphatic vessels, lymphangions have flexibility to independently adapt to local conditions.