The lymphatic vasculature has an essential role in maintaining normal fluid balance in tissues and modulating the inflammatory response to injury or pathogens. Disruption of normal development or function of lymphatic vessels can have severe consequences. In the heart, reduced lymphatic function can lead to myocardial oedema and persistent inflammation. Macrophages, which are phagocytic cells of the innate immune system, contribute to cardiac development and to fibrotic repair and regeneration of cardiac tissue after myocardial infarction. In this Review, we discuss the cardiac lymphatic vasculature with a focus on developments over the past 5 years arising from the study of mammalian and zebrafish model organisms. In addition, we examine the interplay between the cardiac lymphatics and macrophages during fibrotic repair and regeneration after myocardial infarction. Finally, we discuss the therapeutic potential of targeting the cardiac lymphatic network to regulate immune cell content and alleviate inflammation in patients with ischaemic heart disease.
Nat Rev Cardiol