The lymphatic vasculature extends through most tissues of the body and plays an essential role in maintaining fluid balance, immune cell trafficking, and lipid transport. Nearly all dietary lipid is transported from the intestine to the circulation via the lymphatic system in the form of triglyceride-rich lipoproteins called chylomicrons. This process can be described through two different mechanisms: 1) entry of the chylomicron into the initial lymphatic vessels of the small intestine, known as lacteals, and 2) the transport of these chylomicrons through the larger collecting lymphatics by a complex and coordinated system of individual contracting vessel units (lymphangions) and valve leaflets. We describe here a set of in vitro and in vivo tools we have developed to study the mechanisms that modulate lipid transport under these two different paradigms and show how these tools are uncovering important biological features involved in these mechanisms. Lymphatic pump function is known to be sensitive to the mechanical load on the vessel as the contractility of isolated vessels has been shown to be both shear and stretch sensitive [1], yet whether these mechanisms are important in regulating contractile function in vivo remains uncertain.

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