capillary (kăpˈəlĕrˌē) [key], microscopic blood vessel, smallest unit of the circulatory system. Capillaries form a network of tiny tubes throughout the body, connecting arterioles (smallest arteries) and venules (smallest veins). Through the thin capillary walls, which are composed of a single layer of cells, the nutritive material and oxygen in the blood pass into the body tissues, and waste matter and carbon dioxide in turn are absorbed from the tissues into the bloodstream.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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