Tissue fibrosis involves the excessive deposition of extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins, predominantly collagen, which can disrupt normal tissue architecture and function. This pathological remodeling can also significantly impact interstitial fluid dynamics and lymphatic function, with potentially profound consequences for the tissue’s metabolic and immunological environment.
Interstitial Fluid Accumulation
Interstitial fluid, which bathes the cells in tissues, is involved in nutrient delivery, waste removal, and immune surveillance. In healthy tissues, the balance between fluid filtration from blood vessels into the interstitium and fluid removal via the lymphatic system maintains homeostasis.
However, in fibrotic tissues, the excessive ECM can physically impede the interstitial fluid flow. The increased tissue stiffness associated with fibrosis can also compress blood and lymphatic vessels, impeding fluid exchange and drainage (Rocks et al., 2008). The resulting interstitial fluid accumulation, or edema, can further exacerbate tissue dysfunction.
Waste and Toxic Substances in Fibrotic Tissues
As the fibrotic process progresses, the accumulation of interstitial fluid can lead to the trapping of metabolic waste and potentially toxic substances within the tissue. These substances are normally removed via the interstitial fluid flow to the lymphatic system. However, fibrosis-related changes can disrupt this clearance mechanism, leading to a buildup of these substances and potentially exacerbating local inflammation and fibrosis (Lachance et al., 2019).
Impact on Lymphatic Capillaries
Lymphatic capillaries are critical for maintaining interstitial fluid homeostasis, immune surveillance, and lipid absorption. In fibrotic tissues, the structural remodeling and increased tissue stiffness can compress or deform lymphatic vessels, impeding their function (Zolla et al., 2015). This can further exacerbate interstitial fluid accumulation and the associated buildup of waste and toxic substances. Moreover, the impaired lymphatic function can compromise immune cell trafficking, potentially affecting local immune responses.
In summary, the fibrotic remodeling process can have profound effects on interstitial fluid dynamics and lymphatic function, contributing to tissue dysfunction and disease progression.