The endothelium is the thin layer of cells that lines the interior surface of blood vessels and lymphatic vessels, forming an interface between circulating blood or lymph in the lumen and the rest of the vessel wall. The cells that form the endothelium are called endothelial cells. Endothelial cells in direct contact with blood are called vascular endothelial cells, whereas those in direct contact with lymph are known as lymphatic endothelial cells.
Vascular endothelial cells line the entire circulatory system, from the heart to the smallest capillaries. These cells have very distinct and unique functions that are paramount to vascular biology. These functions include fluid filtration, such as in the glomeruli of the kidney, blood vessel tone, hemostasis, neutrophil recruitment, and hormone trafficking. Endothelium of the interior surfaces of the heart chambers are called endocardium.
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