Dermal Lymphatic Capillaries Do Not Obey Murray's Law

Anne M. Talkington, Reema B. Davis, Nicholas C. Datto, Emma R. Goodwin, Laura A. Miller, Kathleen M. Caron

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Lymphatic vessels serve as a major conduit for the transport of interstitial fluid, immune cells, lipids and drugs. Therefore, increased knowledge about their development and function is relevant to clinical issues ranging from chronic inflammation and edema, to cancer metastasis to targeted drug delivery. Murray's Law is a widely-applied branching rule upheld in diverse circulatory systems including leaf venation, sponge canals, and various human organs for optimal fluid transport. Considering the unique and diverse functions of lymphatic fluid transport, we specifically address the branching of developing lymphatic capillaries, and the flow of lymph through these vessels. Using an empirically-generated dataset from wild type and genetic lymphatic insufficiency mouse models we confirmed that branching blood capillaries consistently follow Murray's Law. However surprisingly, we found that the optimization law for lymphatic vessels follows a different pattern, namely a Murray's Law exponent of ~1.45. In this case, the daughter vessels are smaller relative to the parent than would be predicted by the hypothesized radius-cubed law for impermeable vessels. By implementing a computational fluid dynamics model, we further examined the extent to which the assumptions of Murray's Law were violated. We found that the flow profiles were predominantly parabolic and reasonably followed the assumptions of Murray's Law. These data suggest an alternate hypothesis for optimization of the branching structure of the lymphatic system, which may have bearing on the unique physiological functions of lymphatics compared to the blood vascular system. Thus, it may be the case that the lymphatic branching structure is optimized to enhance lymph mixing, particle exchange, or immune cell transport, which are particularly germane to the use of lymphatics as drug delivery routes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number840305
JournalFrontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine
StatePublished - Apr 12 2022


  • Murray's Law
  • branching structure
  • computational fluid dynamics
  • lymph mixing
  • lymphatics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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