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Microcirculation Glossary

Anastomosis The surgical connection or joining of two or more blood vessels.

Angiogenesis - The process of vascularisation of a tissue involving the development of new capillary blood vessels.

Arteries - The vessels in the body that supply oxygenated blood to the tissues.

Arterioles - The smallest divisions of the arteries located between the muscular arteries and the capillaries.

Blood Vessels - Any of the tubular vessels conveying the blood (arteries, arterioles, capillaries, venules, and veins).

Capillaries - The smallest vessels which contain oxygenated blood. The capillaries, allowing red blood cells to travel in single file, are responsible for delivering oxygen to the tissues on a cellular level.

Circulation - Movement in a regular or circuitous course, as the movement of the blood through the heart and blood vessels.

Emboli - Material, usually blood clot but may be fat, bone fragment, nitrogen bubble or bullet), that travels through the circulation, eventually obstructing blood flow through a smaller calibre vessel (for example stroke, pulmonary embolism, central retinal artery occlusion).

Endothelium The layer of epithelial cells that lines the cavities of the heart and of the blood and lymph vessels and the serous cavities of the body, originating from the mesoderm

Erythrocytes - Cells that carry oxygen to all parts of the body. Also called red blood cells (RBCs).

Haemoglobin - Four subunit globular oxygen carrying protein of the erythrocytes of vertebrates and some invertebrates.

Ischaemia - A low oxygen state usually due to obstruction of the arterial blood supply or inadequate blood flow leading to hypoxia in the tissue.

 Leukocytes - Cells that help the body fight infections and other diseases. Also called white blood cells (wbcs).

Lymph Vessels The vessels that convey the lymph; they anastomose freely with each other.

Macrophages - Round, granular, mononuclear phagocytes found in the alveoli of the lungs. They ingest small inhaled particles resulting in degradation and presentation of the antigen to immunocompetent cells.

Microcirculation -  The flow of blood in the entire system of finer vessels (100 microns or less in diameter) of the body (the microvasculature).

Monocytes - One of three types of white blood cells. Monocytes are precursors to macrophages.

Mononuclear phagocyte system - A widely distributed collection of both free and fixed macrophages derived from bone marrow precursor cells by way of monocytes; their substantial phagocytic activity is mediated by immunoglobulin and the serum complement system. In both connective and lymphoid tissue, they may occur as free and fixed macrophages; in the sinusoids of the liver, as Kupffer cells; in the lung, as alveolar macrophages; and in the nervous system, as microglia.

Neovascularization - Proliferation of blood vessels in tissue not normally containing them, or proliferation of blood vessels of a different kind than usual in tissue.

Neutrophils - Granular leukocytes having a nucleus with three to five lobes connected by slender threads of chromatin, and cytoplasm containing fine inconspicuous granules and stainable by neutral dyes.

Nucleus - The major organelle of eukaryotic cells, in which the chromosomes are separated from the cytoplasm by the nuclear envelope.

Phagocyte - A cell that is capable of phagocytosis. The main mammalian phagocytes are neutrophils and macrophages

Platelet - A discoid cell (3m diameter) found in large numbers in blood, important for blood coagulation and for haemostasis by repairing breaches (small breaks) in the walls of blood vessels.

Red Blood Cell (RBC) - Cell specialised for oxygen transport, having a high concentration of haemoglobin in the cytoplasm (and little else). Biconcave, anucleate discs, 7nm diameter in mammals, nucleus contracted and chromatin condensed in other vertebrates.

Thrombosis - The formation, development or presence of a thrombus.

Vascularisation - Growth of blood vessels into a tissue with the result that the oxygen and nutrient supply is improved.

Veins - The vessels carrying blood toward the heart.

Venules - The minute vessels that collect blood from the capillary plexuses and join together to form veins.

Vasoactive - Exerting an effect upon the calibre of blood vessels.

White blood cells (WBC) - Cells that circulate in the blood and lymphatic system and harbor in the lymph glands and spleen. They are part of the immune system responsible for both directly (t cells and macrophages) and indirectly (B-cells producing antibodies) attacking foreign invaders of the body.

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Last Updated: February 06, 2008