UAMS Laser Could Open Up World of Tiny Lymph Vessels to Scientists

By todd

The UAMS study seeks to understand the fundamentals of lymphatic function. A new way to clearly see the flow of lymphatic fluid at the cellular level could unlock the mystery of how metastatic cancer cells migrate through the body.

Vladimir P. Zharov, Ph.D., is developing a high-resolution, high-contrast laser imaging system to observe cells as they move through the lymph system inside a living organism, something that so far has not been viewed. The study will focus the diagnostic laser equipment on the mesentery, the ultra-thin lining attached to the abdominal wall containing a single layer of blood and lymph microvessels.

“It is surprising that so little is known of microlymphatic fundamentals, including mechanism of propulsion, valve function, and other things,” Zharov, director of the Phillips Classic Laser Laboratory in the Arkansas Cancer Research Center at UAMS, said. “To date, blood microcirculation has been studied in detail, while the lymphatic system has been paid much less attention.”

The laser technique will allow visualization of even single cells in blood and lymphatic microvessels, including red blood cells, leukocytes, and platelets. It will also allow scientists to measure lymphatic flow, creating what is called the “velocity profile.” Zharov even hopes to be able to estimate the viscosity of the lymph fluid.

Because several diseases, including lymphedema, lymphatic malformations, port-wine stains, and cancer, disrupt lymphatic function, Zharov’s optical laser system has a broad spectrum of possible biomedical applications.

The grant of $417,277 for two years is from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) at NIH. One of the long-term goals of the study is to test the laser system’s capability for studying how the microvascular system reacts to various therapies, such as drugs or laser treatment, including a study of micro injury to the vessels’ walls.

Zharov, who came to UAMS from his native Moscow in 2000, also is investigating a laser-based treatment of lymphedema (limb swelling) after breast cancer surgery, a way to customize chemotherapy using laser technology, and a way to bind breast cancer cells with tiny gold particles in order to kill the cells with a laser pulse.