Dong Li, Ph.D., currently a Research Scientist at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, under the supervision of Dr. Hakon Hakonarson, M.D., Ph.D., received a Travel Award from LE&RN to attend the 2019 Lymphatics Forum in Austin, TX. We asked Dr. Li to share his thoughts on that experience with us and to tell us a bit about his research and future plans.
1. What did you get out of the Forum? Why did you feel it was important to attend?
First of all, I would like to thank LE&RN again for granting me the Travel Award to help defray travel and lodging expenses associated with this lymphatic forum and the 2019 Lymphatic Forum in Chicago. The Forum was effectively formatted and the content presented at the meeting was informative and inspiring. Of importance, it provided a special occasion to connect with the leading scientists in the lymphatic field and discuss with collaborators. The Forum also gave me a big picture of the lymphatic field, which reinforces my knowledge in lymphatics and points me the direction that I should go after.
2. What are your areas of interest in research?
I focus on resolving the genetic causes of lymphatic diseases and I’m also interested in translational medicine. This year on behalf of our team I got an opportunity to present how genetics discovery leads to precise treatment for a child with severe lymphatic disorder, which is an example of implementing a precision medicine treatment for a life-threatening rare lymphatic anomaly.
3. What are your hopes and plans for your career and your research?
By improving understanding of the genetic architecture of lymphatic diseases and the biological processes underpinning their pathogenesis using cellular and in vivo animal models, ultimately, with teamwork I hope such knowledge can translate into innovative and efficacious treatments to lymphatic disorders, including repurposing an existing drug like the study we presented.
4. Why do you believe that, in general, lymphatic research is important? What might the field accomplish within the next few years?
The lymphatic system is sometimes called “the forgotten circulation,” but we all know it’s an extremely important drainage system that interacts with the cardiovascular system, absorbing dietary fats, maintaining the body fluid circulation, and defending the body against diseases. When lymph flow goes wrong, it may cause fluid accumulation in the chest, abdomen, or other organs/tissues, leading to swelling of limbs or other tissues. As the absence of clear clinical distinctions and the overlap of diagnostic criteria between primary lymphatic anomalies, I think an attempt to begin understanding the disease spectrum by identifying genetic causes would provide a way to evaluate these disorders and eventually guide therapy development.