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René Hägerling, LE&RN Travel Award Winner

René Hägerling, LE&RN Travel Award Winner

René Hägerling, currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine in Muenster, Germany, under the supervision of Prof. Friedemann Kiefer, received a travel award from LE&RN to attend the 2016 Gordon Research Conference in Lymphatics held in Ventura, CA. We asked René to share his thoughts on that experience with us and to tell us a bit about his research and future plans.

What did you get out of the Conference? Why did you feel it was important to attend?
The Gordon Research Conference (GRC) on Lymphatics 2016 was the third GRC I attended. Like the previous conferences, it was an inspiring meeting with a unique atmosphere. Attending GRC “Lymphatics” is always a great opportunity to get a global overview about the research of the lymphatic community as well as new insights into lymphatic vascular biology. Beside this, the GRC 2016 was also important for me as I got the chance to present and discuss my work in a poster as well as in a talk, which led to a lot of interesting and stimulating discussions with colleagues from different fields of lymphatic research. These discussions showed me that scientists in different fields struggle with similar problems and that meetings, like the GRC, help solve these problems by sharing scientific knowledge and initiating new collaborations. This highlights the potential and importance of translating scientific knowledge from mice to patient tissues to improve diagnosis and treatment of patients in future.

What are your areas of interest in research?
During my diploma thesis and Ph.D., I worked on lymphatic vascular development and lymphatic function in mice. We developed new tools to visualize lymphatic vessels, e.g., a lymphatic vessel specific reporter mouse, and were able to study the influence of different genes and conditions over a long period of time. In addition, we introduced a novel 3D imaging modality to the field and were able to develop a new model of initial lymphangiogenesis in the mouse embryo. During my postdoc, I continued working on murine lymphangiogenesis, but I also translate imaging techniques we used in lab to study lymphatic vessels in mice to tissues of patients suffering from lymphovascular diseases. I am convinced that this helps improving our understanding of lymphoedema and malformations in future!

What are your hopes and plans for your career and your research?
Within the next year, I am planning to finish my postdoc at the Max Planck Institute as well as my studies in human medicine. Over the last few years I have had a great time in Friedemann Kiefer’s lab and it was a unique scientific and inspiring atmosphere, which allowed me to follow my interdisciplinary interests and passion to investigate lymphatic vessels in mice and men. As a next step I want to become a junior group leader and move to a different place to broaden my understanding of lymphatic vascular diseases and to focus my research on lymphedema patients. Improving diagnosis and treatment of patients suffering from lymphovascular diseases is a big and important challenge for lymphatic researcher, but I hope that by combining my medical with biological education, I can be part of this challenge and contribute with all scientists from the lymphatic community to a much better understanding of lymphatic disorders, which will hopefully lead to new treatment strategies for patients.

Why do you believe that, in general, lymphatic research is important? What might the field accomplish within the next few years?
For a long period of time, the lymphatic vasculature was more or less neglected by a lot of researchers. Fortunately, this has changed over the last years and researchers from the lymphatic community could identify new and essential functions of the lymphatic vessels under physiological and pathological conditions. The recent advances in imaging techniques as well as in identifying new genes important for lymphatic vessel development and maintenance bear a great potential for more detailed insights into lymphatic disorders and new therapies for lymphatic diseases. Therefore, I am convinced that we are just at the beginning of understanding lymphovascular diseases and that in the future we will make great advances in managing and treating lymphatic disorders.


Programs such as LE&RN's Travel Awards program advances the scientific community's understanding of lymphedema and lymphatic diseases, allows for increased communication between researchers, and raises the profile of lymphatic research in the scientific community. These programs are only possible as a result of the generosity and dedication of LE&RN's corporate sponsors and Supporting Members. If you are committed to LE&RN's mission of fighting lymphedema and lymphatic disease through education, research, and advocacy, become a LE&RN Supporting Member today. Supporting Membership begins at just $5/month.