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Capillary

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Capillaries are the smallest of a body's blood vessels, measuring 5-10 μm. They connect arteries and veins, and most closely interact with tissues. Capillaries have walls composed of a single layer of cells, the endothelium. This layer is so thin that molecules such as oxygen, water and lipids can pass through them by diffusion and enter the tissues. Waste products such as carbon dioxide and urea can diffuse back into the blood to be carried away for removal from the body. Capillary permeability can be increased by the release of certain cytokines.

The endothelium also actively transports nutrients, messengers and other substances. Large molecules may be too big to diffuse across endothelial cells. In some cases, vesicles contained in the capillary membrane use endocytosis and exocytosis to transport material between blood and the tissues.

In an immune response, the endothelial cells of the capillary will upregulate receptor molecules, thus "catching" immune cells as they pass by the site of infection and aiding extravasation of these cells into the tissue.

The "capillary bed" is the network of capillaries supplying an organ. The more metabolically active the cells, the more capillaries it will require to supply nutrients. The capillary bed usually carries no more than 25% of the amount of blood it could contain, although this amount can be increased through autoregulation (e.g. active muscle cells) by constricting smooth muscle.

Details

The total length of capillaries in an average adult human is approximately 40,000 km (25,000 miles).


Cardiovascular system
Heart - Aorta - Arteries - Arterioles - Capillaries - Venules - Veins - Venae cavae - Pulmonary arteries - Lungs - Pulmonary veins - Blood
de:Kapillare

es:Capilar sanguíneo fr:Capillaire nl:Haarvat ja:毛細血管 pt:Capilar sanguíneo

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