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24.Capillaries

Capillaries are thinwalled, narrowdiameter, lowpressure vessels that generally permit easy diffusion across their walls. Most capillar ies have a crosssectional diameter of 7 12 mm. They are composed of a simple layer of endothelium, which is the lining of the entire vas cular system, and an underlying basal lamina. They are attached to the surrounding tissues by a delicate reticulum of collagen. Associated with these vessels at various points along their length are specialized cells called pericytes. These cells, enclosed within their own basal lamina, which is continuous with that of the endothelium, contain contractile proteins and thus may be involved in the control of capillary dynamics. They may also serve as stem cells at times of vascular repair. Capillaries are generally divided into three types, according to the structure of their endothelial cell walls.

Continuous (muscular, somatic) capillaries are formed by a single uninterrupted layer of endothelial cells rolled up into the shape of a tube and can be found in locations such as connective tissue, muscle, and nerve.

Fenestrated (visceral) capillaries are characterized by the presence of pores in the endothelial cell wall. The pores are covered by a thin diaphragm (except in the glomeruli of the kidney) and are usually encountered in tissues where rapid substance interchange occurs (e. g., kidney, intestine, endocrine glands).

Sinusoidal capillaries can be found in the liver, hematopoietic and lymphopoietic organs, and in certain endocrine glands. These tubes with discontinuous endothelial walls have a larger diame ter than other capillaries (up to 40 mm), exhibit irregular crosssec tional profiles, have more tortuous paths, and often lack a con tinuous basal lamina. Cells with phagocytic activity (macrophages) are present within, or just subjacent to, the endothelium.

New words

capillaries

to thinwalled

narrowdiameter

lowpressure

that

generally

permit easy

diffusion

crosssectional

to be composed

simple

endothelium

lining

entire

vas cular

underlying

basal

lamina








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