The novel role of lymphatic vessels in the pathogenesis of ocular diseases

Progress in Retinal and Eye Research(2023)

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Historically, the eye has been considered as an organ free of lymphatic vessels. In recent years, however, it became evident, that lymphatic vessels or lymphatic-like vessels contribute to several ocular pathologies at various peri- and intraocular locations. The aim of this review is to outline the pathogenetic role of ocular lymphatics, the respective molecular mechanisms and to discuss current and future therapeutic options based thereon. We will give an overview on the vascular anatomy of the healthy ocular surface and the molecular mechanisms contributing to corneal (lymph)angiogenic privilege. In addition, we present (i) current insights into the cellular and molecular mechanisms occurring during pathological neovascularization of the cornea triggered e.g. by inflammation or trauma, (ii) the role of lymphatic vessels in different ocular surface pathologies such as dry eye disease, corneal graft rejection, ocular graft versus host disease, allergy, and pterygium, (iii) the involvement of lymphatic vessels in ocular tumors and metastasis, and (iv) the novel role of the lymphatic-like structure of Schlemm's canal in glaucoma. Identification of the underlying molecular mechanisms and of novel modulators of lymphangiogenesis will contribute to the development of new therapeutic targets for the treatment of ocular diseases associated with pathological lymphangiogenesis in the future. The preclinical data presented here outline novel therapeutic concepts for promoting transplant survival, inhibiting metastasis of ocular tumors, reducing inflammation of the ocular surface, and treating glaucoma. Initial data from clinical trials suggest first success of novel treatment strategies to promote transplant survival based on pretransplant corneal lymphangioregression.
Lymphangiogenesis,Corneal (lymph)angiogenic privilege,Glaucoma,Transplantation,Limbal stem cells,Corneal immune reaction
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