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Development of an artificial lymph node

The loss of the lymph nodes in cancer patients may have a much more negative impact on tissue fluid balance than has been considered in the past. Available evidence suggests that the absorption of protein-free water into the capillaries of the nodes has an important role in the regulation of pressure and volume in downstream anatomical elements of the lymphatic system. The autologous transplantation of lymph nodes into the surgical resection site could facilitate the restoration of normal lymph transport in the affected limb. However, the removal of a normal lymph node could lead to donor site morbidity.

We are investigating the possibility of developing an artificial lymph node that could be implanted into the surgical resection site. We are attempting to create an implant that will stimulate new blood vessel and lymphatic vessel growth resulting in the recreation of an intact lymphatic network.

Current therapeutic measures are applied to patients with entrenched edema and the outcome is often unsatisfactory. In the case of breast cancer-related post-surgical lymphedema, the timeline of the disorder can be linked to the removal of lymph nodes. Therefore, it is likely that a higher success rate may be achieved with treatment started early (lymph node transplantation or its artificial equivalent) since the chronic sequelae of events leading to lymphedema might be prevented.