A biomedical engineering approach to investigating flow and wall shear stress in contracting lymphatics
Collecting microlymphatics play a vital role in promoting lymph flow from the initial lymphatics in the interstitial spaces to the large transport lymph ducts. In most tissues, the primary mechanism for producing this flow is the spontaneous contractions of the lymphatic wall. Individual units, known as lymphangion, are separated by valves that help prevent backflow when the vessel contracts, thus promoting flow through the lymphatic network. Lymphatic contractile activity is inhibited by flow in isolated lymphatics, however there are virtually no in situ measurements of lymph flow in these vessels. Initially, a high speed imaging system was set up to image in situ preparations at 500 fps. These images were then manually processed to extract information regarding lymphocyte velocity (-4 to 10 mm/sec), vessel diameter (25 to 165 um), and particle location. Fluid modeling was performed to obtain reasonable estimates of wall shear stress (-8 to 17 dynes/cm2). One of the difficulties encountered was the time consuming methods of manual particle tracking. Using previously captured images, an image correlation method was developed to automate lymphatic flow measurements and to track wall movements as the vessel contracts. Using this method the standard error of prediction for velocity measurements was 0.4 mm/sec and for diameter measurements it was 7.0 µm. It was found that the actual physical quantity being measured through this approach is somewhere between the spatially averaged velocity and the maximum velocity of a Poiseuille flow model.