A Connection Between Lymphangiogenesis and Galectin-8

Inhibitors of the protein galectin-8 may offer hope for treatment of several chronic inflammatory diseases.

When tissues experience injury, lymphatic vessels are grown, which is called lymphangiogenesis.

Researchers from Tufts University discovered a connection between lymphangiogenesis and the protein galectin-8 in regards to corneal transplants specifically.

Researchers first found that galectin-8 promotes the growth of additional lymphatic vessels through a carbohydrate-dependent mechanism. This would increase the rejection rate of corneal transplants.

Then, researchers approached ways to inhibit galectin-8, and consequently reduced the inflammatory lymphangiogenesis.

In a separate test, mice without the galectin-8 protein were shown to be more resistant to eye infections from herpes simplex virus. An absence of this protein was not seen to affect the health of the mice.

"Galectin-8 is a potent lymphangiogenic factor and we hope that this knowledge contributes to new preventative treatments. We hope to explore it further to prevent corneal transplant rejection, but also to help find treatments for dry eye and other ocular diseases," said Noorjahan Panjwani, PhD. "These findings also potentially lay the foundation for a new approach to preventing a number of debilitating diseases, including non-eye organ transplant rejection, cancer metastasis, and lymphedema."

Researchers state that there is a need to develop treatments for lymphangiogenesis prevention. It could prevent organ rejection and metastasis.

"The molecular signaling involved in lymphangiogenesis is more complicated than previously thought. Studies on lymphangiogenesis have focused on the VEGF-C (growth factor)/VEGFR-3 (receptor for VEFG-C) pathway because it promotes both physiological and pathological lymphangiogenesis,” Wei-Sheng Chen, PhD, stated. “We found that galectin-8 is sufficient to promote pathological lymphangiogenesis, surprisingly without the involvement of VEGFR-3. This means that galectin-8 might be an important target to prevent metastasis in addition to VEGF-C or VEGFR-3.”

Though more studies are needed, researchers think that galectin-8 inhibitors could potentially be used to treat chronic inflammatory diseases.