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Lymphatic system

The meaning of «lymphatic system»

The lymphatic system, or lymphoid system, is an organ system in vertebrates that is part of the circulatory system and the immune system. It is made up of a large network of lymph, lymphatic vessels, lymph nodes, lymphatic or lymphoid organs, and lymphoid tissues.[1][2] The vessels carry a clear fluid called lymph (the Latin word lympha refers to the deity of fresh water, "Lympha")[3] towards the heart.

Unlike the cardiovascular system, the lymphatic system is not a closed system. The human circulatory system processes an average of 20 litres of blood per day through capillary filtration, which removes plasma from the blood. Roughly 17 litres of the filtered plasma is reabsorbed directly into the blood vessels, while the remaining three litres are left in the interstitial fluid. One of the main functions of the lymphatic system is to provide an accessory return route to the blood for the surplus three litres.[4]

The other main function is that of immune defense. Lymph is very similar to blood plasma, in that it contains waste products and cellular debris, together with bacteria and proteins. The cells of the lymph are mostly lymphocytes. Associated lymphoid organs are composed of lymphoid tissue, and are the sites either of lymphocyte production or of lymphocyte activation. These include the lymph nodes (where the highest lymphocyte concentration is found), the spleen, the thymus, and the tonsils. Lymphocytes are initially generated in the bone marrow. The lymphoid organs also contain other types of cells such as stromal cells for support.[5] Lymphoid tissue is also associated with mucosas such as mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT).[6]

Fluid from circulating blood leaks into the tissues of the body by capillary action, carrying nutrients to the cells. The fluid bathes the tissues as interstitial fluid, collecting waste products, bacteria, and damaged cells, and then drains as lymph into the lymphatic capillaries and lymphatic vessels. These vessels carry the lymph throughout the body, passing through numerous lymph nodes which filter out unwanted materials such as bacteria and damaged cells. Lymph then passes into much larger lymph vessels known as lymph ducts. The right lymphatic duct drains the right side of the region and the much larger left lymphatic duct, known as the thoracic duct, drains the left side of the body. The ducts empty into the subclavian veins to return to the blood circulation. Lymph is moved through the system by muscle contractions.[7] In some vertebrates, a lymph heart is present that pumps the lymph to the veins.[7][8]

The lymphatic system was first described in the 17th century independently by Olaus Rudbeck and Thomas Bartholin.[9]

The lymphatic system consists of a conducting network of lymphatic vessels, lymphoid organs, lymphoid tissues, and the circulating lymph.

The primary (or central) lymphoid organs generate lymphocytes from immature progenitor cells. The thymus and the bone marrow constitute the primary lymphoid organs involved in the production and early clonal selection of lymphocyte tissues.

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