The Reticuloendothelial System

The lymphatic system is sometimes given the alternate name of reticuloendothelial (reh-TIK-you-loh-en-doh-THEE-lee-al) system. The extremely long word, reticuloendothelial, is often simply abbreviated as R-E. And the reticuloendothelial system simply becomes named the R-E system.

The reticuloendothelial or R-E system is a ''little network'' (reticul) of lymphatic vessels that are lined by ''endothelial'' cells. So, it is a name based upon anatomy. (You may remember the endothelial cells from Chapter 11 as the flat, scale-like cells that also line the lumens of our blood vessels.) [Study suggestion: Take another quick look back at Figure 12.3, and observe how the endothelial cells line both the blood capillaries and the lymphatic capillaries.] Because these endothelial cells are so flat, lymph (and its contained dirt, bacteria, or cancer cells) are readily filtered through or between them.

Since the lymphatic (reticuloendothelial) system receives dirt, bacteria, debris, viruses, and cancer cells that have been filtered out of the bloodstream, it serves a critical role in immunity (body defense) by cleaning up the blood, and then returning the cleansed fluid back to the blood. Remember this general saying: ''From the blood the lymph is formed, and back to the blood the lymph doth return.'' The first lymph filtered from the bloodstream is dirty (in the sense that it often carries contaminants or foreign invaders), while the final lymph is clean (in the sense that the contaminants and foreign invaders have been removed). Therefore, in the process of filtering and cleaning the material that is leaked out of the blood capillaries, the lymphatic (reticuloendothelial) system provides immunity.

We can summarize the important inter-relationships by two alternate equations:

LYMPHATIC SYSTEM - RETICULOENDOTHELIAL (R-E) SYSTEM

IMMUNE SYSTEM

Organ System 3

LYMPHATIC-IMMUNE SYSTEM R-E SYSTEM

Organ System 3

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