The blood and lymphatic systems are the two well-established circulatory systems. The existence of a third circulatory system representing acupuncture meridians was claimed in the 1960s. The very existence and function of the system, however, remained uncertain. We have found that microscopic nodes and ducts inside lymphatics, as well as on the surface of internal organs of the rat. The nodes and ducts are covered by a layer of EMP-3-positive spindle-shaped epithelium with, below, a layer of vWF-positive but CD31-negative endothelium. The nodes contain a variety of immune cells, usually enriched with mast cells, eosinophils, neutrophils and histiocytes, as well as chromaffin cells, other granule-containing cells. Secretory granules originating from the mast cells in the nodes appear to pass along ductules, two or more of which make up a duct. Our results reveal a potential circulatory system whose anatomical structure and cellular content differ from the blood and lymph systems, and which may be involved in the transport of secretory granules.
- EMP-3-positive epithelium
- Intralymphatic nodes and duct
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Immunology and Allergy
- Molecular Biology