Salli Antila, currently a MD/PhD student at the University of Helsinki, under the supervision of Dr. Kari Alitalo, received a Travel Award from LE&RN to attend the 2017 Lymphatics Forum in Chicago. We asked Salli to share her thoughts on that experience with us and to tell us a bit about her research and future plans.
1. What did you get out of the Forum? Why did you feel it was important to attend?
This was my first time attending a conference concentrating only on lymphatics. The Lymphatic Forum provided a great learning experience about the most recent research conducted in the lymphatic vascular field. Being able to share my work with a Poster was a valuable experience and offered me a great opportunity to communicate and get feedback from top scientists in the field. Furthermore, this conference allowed me to establish a better lymphatic network around the world, which will be extremely valuable for my future research.
2. What are your areas of interest in research?
We and others recently identified and described the basic biology of a previously uncharacterized meningeal lymphatic vascular network that serves both tissue clearance and immune cell trafficking functions of the brain. These studies have prompted the reconsideration of some basic assumptions in neurobiology, particularly with respect to CNS immune privilege and macromolecule clearance. My research aims to better elucidate the physiological function of meningeal lymphatic vessels, to explore the effects of lymphangiogenic growth factors on these vessels as well as to characterize their role in different neuropathological processes.
3. What are your hopes and plans for your career and your research?
I expect to complete my PhD studies within a few years in parallel with my MD studies. The research on meningeal lymphatic vessels is currently extremely vigorous and provides tremendous opportunities to continue also after the PhD degree. I hope to provide answers for some of the most burning questions related to meningeal lymphatics and their role both in health and disease.
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 far less characterized than the blood vascular system and future research will undeniably yield novel results that help better understand the lymphatic vascular system as a whole. Better knowledge from the lymphatic system under physiological and pathological conditions will provide us new ways to understand how lymphatic vessels function and what is their exact role in different disease processes. Within the next years, I assume that we will receive new information about the organ specific functions of lymphatic vessels and how these functions can be altered based on tissue environments. This knowledge should be extremely valuable in order to establish new treatment strategies for patients suffering from lymphatic-related diseases.
Programs such as LE&RN's Travel Awards program advance the scientific community's understanding of lymphedema and lymphatic diseases, allows for increased communication between researchers, and raises the profile of lymphatic research. 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.