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Any of the minute blood vessels that form networks where the arterial and venous circulation (seeartery, vein) meet for exchange of oxygen, nutrients, and wastes with body tissues. Capillaries are just large enough for red blood cells to pass through in single file. Their thin walls are semipermeable, allowing small molecules to pass through in both directions. The smallest lymphatic vessels and minute bile channels in the liver are also called capillaries.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on capillary, visit Britannica.com.