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A capillary is a small blood vessel from 5 to 10 micrometres in diameter, and is part of the microcirculation system. Capillaries are microvessels and the smallest blood vessels in the body. They are composed of only the tunica intima (the innermost layer of an artery or vein), consisting of a thin wall of simple squamous endothelial cells.[2] They are the site of the exchange of many substances from the surrounding interstitial fluid, and convey blood from the smallest branches of the arteries (arterioles) to those of the veins (venules). Other substances which cross capillaries include water, oxygen, carbon dioxide, urea,[3] glucose, uric acid, lactic acid and creatinine. Lymph capillaries connect with larger lymph vessels to drain lymphatic fluid collected in microcirculation.


Capillary comes from the Latin word capillaris, meaning "of or resembling hair", with use in English beginning in the mid-17th century.[4] The meaning stems from the tiny, hairlike diameter of a capillary.[4] While capillary is usually used as a noun, the word also is used as an adjective, as in "capillary action", in which a liquid flows without influence of external forces, such as gravity.

Individual capillaries are part of the capillary bed, an interweaving network of capillaries supplying tissues and organs. The more metabolically active a tissue is, the more capillaries are required to supply nutrients and carry away products of metabolism. There are two types of capillaries: true capillaries, which branch from arterioles and provide exchange between tissue and the capillary blood, and sinusoids, a type of open-pore capillary found in the liver, bone marrow, anterior pituitary gland, and brain circumventricular organs. Capillaries and sinusoids are short vessels that directly connect the arterioles and venules at opposite ends of the beds. Metarterioles are found primarily in the mesenteric microcirculation.[5]

By convention, outward force is defined as positive, and inward force is defined as negative. The solution to the equation is known as the net filtration or net fluid movement (Jv). If positive, fluid will tend to leave the capillary (filtration). If negative, fluid will tend to enter the capillary (absorption). This equation has a number of important physiologic implications, especially when pathologic processes grossly alter one or more of the variables.[citation needed]

Disorders of capillary formation as a developmental defect or acquired disorder are a feature in many common and serious disorders. Within a wide range of cellular factors and cytokines, issues with normal genetic expression and bioactivity of the vascular growth and permeability factor vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) appear to play a major role in many of the disorders. Cellular factors include reduced number and function of bone-marrow derived endothelial progenitor cells.[24] and reduced ability of those cells to form blood vessels.[25]

Major diseases where altering capillary formation could be helpful include conditions where there is excessive or abnormal capillary formation such as cancer and disorders harming eyesight; and medical conditions in which there is reduced capillary formation either for familial or genetic reasons, or as an acquired problem.

Capillary blood sampling can be used to test for blood glucose (such as in blood glucose monitoring), hemoglobin, pH and lactate.[29][30] It is generally performed by creating a small cut using a blood lancet, followed by sampling by capillary action on the cut with a test strip or small pipette.[31] It is also used to test for sexually transmitted infections that are present in the blood stream, such as HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis B and C, where a finger is lanced and a small amount of blood is sampled into a test tube.[32]

Neural activity increases local blood flow in the central nervous system (CNS), which is the basis of BOLD (blood oxygen level dependent) and PET (positron emission tomography) functional imaging techniques. Blood flow is assumed to be regulated by precapillary arterioles, because capillaries lack smooth muscle. However, most (65%) noradrenergic innervation of CNS blood vessels terminates near capillaries rather than arterioles, and in muscle and brain a dilatory signal propagates from vessels near metabolically active cells to precapillary arterioles, suggesting that blood flow control is initiated in capillaries. Pericytes, which are apposed to CNS capillaries and contain contractile proteins, could initiate such signalling. Here we show that pericytes can control capillary diameter in whole retina and cerebellar slices. Electrical stimulation of retinal pericytes evoked a localized capillary constriction, which propagated at approximately 2 microm s(-1) to constrict distant pericytes. Superfused ATP in retina or noradrenaline in cerebellum resulted in constriction of capillaries by pericytes, and glutamate reversed the constriction produced by noradrenaline. Electrical stimulation or puffing GABA (gamma-amino butyric acid) receptor blockers in the inner retina also evoked pericyte constriction. In simulated ischaemia, some pericytes constricted capillaries. Pericytes are probably modulators of blood flow in response to changes in neural activity, which may contribute to functional imaging signals and to CNS vascular disease.

Plants and trees couldn't thrive without capillary action. Capillary action helps bring water up into the roots. With the help of adhesion and cohesion, water can work it's way all the way up to the branches and leaves. Read on to learn more about how this movement of water takes place.

Even if you've never heard of capillary action, it is still important in your life. Capillary action is important for moving water (and all of the things that are dissolved in it) around. It is defined as the movement of water within the spaces of a porous material due to the forces of adhesion, cohesion, and surface tension.

Capillary action occurs because water is sticky, thanks to the forces of cohesion (water molecules like to stay close together) and adhesion (water molecules are attracted and stick to other substances). Adhesion of water to the walls of a vessel will cause an upward force on the liquid at the edges and result in a meniscus which turns upward. The surface tension acts to hold the surface intact. Capillary action occurs when the adhesion to the walls is stronger than the cohesive forces between the liquid molecules. The height to which capillary action will take water in a uniform circular tube (picture to right) is limited by surface tension and, of course, gravity.

You can see capillary action in action (although slowly) by doing an experiment where you place the bottom of a celery stalk in a glass of water with food coloring and watch for the movement of the color to the top leaves of the celery. You might want to use a piece of celery that has begun to whither, as it is in need of a quick drink. It can take a few days, but, as these pictures show, the colored water is "drawn" upward, against the pull of gravity. This effect happens because, in plants, water molecules move through narrow tubes that are called capillaries (or xylem).

Increases in brain blood flow, evoked by neuronal activity, power neural computation and form the basis of BOLD (blood-oxygen-level-dependent) functional imaging. Whether blood flow is controlled solely by arteriole smooth muscle, or also by capillary pericytes, is controversial. We demonstrate that neuronal activity and the neurotransmitter glutamate evoke the release of messengers that dilate capillaries by actively relaxing pericytes. Dilation is mediated by prostaglandin E2, but requires nitric oxide release to suppress vasoconstricting 20-HETE synthesis. In vivo, when sensory input increases blood flow, capillaries dilate before arterioles and are estimated to produce 84% of the blood flow increase. In pathology, ischaemia evokes capillary constriction by pericytes. We show that this is followed by pericyte death in rigor, which may irreversibly constrict capillaries and damage the blood-brain barrier. Thus, pericytes are major regulators of cerebral blood flow and initiators of functional imaging signals. Prevention of pericyte constriction and death may reduce the long-lasting blood flow decrease that damages neurons after stroke. 041b061a72


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