The Effects of Valve Leaflet Mechanics on Lymphatic Pumping Assessed Using Numerical Simulations

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The lymphatic system contains intraluminal leaflet valves that function to bias lymph flow back towards the heart. These valves are present in the collecting lymphatic vessels, which generally have lymphatic muscle cells and can spontaneously pump fluid. Recent studies have shown that the valves are open at rest, can allow some backflow, and are a source of nitric oxide (NO). To investigate how these valves function as a mechanical valve and source of vasoactive species to optimize throughput, we developed a mathematical model that explicitly includes Ca2+ -modulated contractions, NO production and valve structures. The 2D lattice Boltzmann model includes an initial lymphatic vessel and a collecting lymphangion embedded in a porous tissue. The lymphangion segment has mechanically-active vessel walls and is flanked by deformable valves. Vessel wall motion is passively affected by fluid pressure, while active contractions are driven by intracellular Ca2+ fluxes. The model reproduces NO and Ca2+ dynamics, valve motion and fluid drainage from tissue. We find that valve structural properties have dramatic effects on performance, and that valves with a stiffer base and flexible tips produce more stable cycling. In agreement with experimental observations, the valves are a major source of NO. Once initiated, the contractions are spontaneous and self-sustained, and the system exhibits interesting nonlinear dynamics. For example, increased fluid pressure in the tissue or decreased lymph pressure at the outlet of the system produces high shear stress and high levels of NO, which inhibits contractions. On the other hand, a high outlet pressure opposes the flow, increasing the luminal pressure and the radius of the vessel, which results in strong contractions in response to mechanical stretch of the wall. We also find that the location of contraction initiation is affected by the extent of backflow through the valves.


Scientific Reports




Biomedical Engineering