1. Make a Lymphatic Vessel
- Cup or bowl
- Clear plastic straw
- Small balloon
- Rubber band or molding clay
- Sequins (sand, sesame seeds, or chia seeds will also work nicely)
1. Fill your cup or bowl with water
2. Seal the end of the balloon around the tip of the straw using molding clay or the rubber band. You may want to do this with the balloon submerged in the water, since you’ll need to fill it up anyway
3. Place the balloon under the water in the cup or bowl with the straw sticking out. Then, carefully pour water into the straw until the balloon and straw are both filled.
You now have a miniature lymphatic system. The straw is your lymphatic vessel, the water is your lymph, and the balloon is a skeletal muscle. Now, reach into the bowl and give your muscle a squeeze (or a - say it, Adventure 7 people - contraction!). I hope you weren’t looking down the tip of the straw, because if you were you probably got a face full of lymph. Sorry about that. Don’t worry though, this just means your one-way valve is working.
Now try this:
4. Drop a few pieces of sequins, sand, or chia seeds into the straw and watch them sink down. Don’t drop too many! If you add too much substance it’ll block your lymph, and you don’t want your model to get lymphedema (Say it like this: lim-fuh-DEE-muh).That’s a condition where your lymphatic vessels are impeded, and it’s no fun.
5. Give your balloon-muscle another contraction. You should see the particles moving up the straw toward the tip. Like a boat on a river, they’re transported down the stream.
The particles in your straw represent amino acids, glucose, or infections that your lymphatic system carries. The infections, hopefully, will be killed by your white blood cells - but the glucose and amino acids will be brought to your tissue cells to provide nutrients.
Extra Credit:Just how one-way is your model lymphatic system? Try this experiment to see. Put your mouth on the tip of the straw and give it a blow. How difficult is it? You can probably do it, but chances are it’s much harder than giving the balloon a squeeze. And such is the way of a one-way flow.
2. Drainage System
You’ve probably noticed by now that the systems in your body do more than one job. The lymphatic system wears a bunch of hats too - it transports goods and vets out invaders, but also drains away excess fluid to keep your body in balance. If you’re imagining it like a garbage disposal, you’re getting the picture, with one key difference.
The lymphatic system acts more like a recycling service than a garbage disposal in that it returns the excess fluid to your bloodstream so that it can be reused. What would happen to you if it didn’t serve that purpose? Try this activity to find out!
- Two plastic or rubber gloves
- A needle or scissors
1. Pick a glove and poke or cut tiny holes in the tips of each finger. This is your hand with a lymphatic system. Let the other glove be. This is your hand without a lymphatic system.
2. Pour water slowly into each glove.
Your hand without a lymphatic system
Your hand with a lymphatic system
Notice how the glove with the lymphatic system swells at first, but lets the fluid drain out the fingers until it returns to its normal size. This is what the lymphatic system does - drains extra fluid so it doesn't build up in our tissues.
See how the glove without the lymphatic system puffs up as it fills with water? That’s what would happen to your limbs without the lymphatic system. Just like the glove, you’d fill up with unneeded liquid until you - well, maybe not explode, but you’d sure wish you had!