The blood vascular bed of the rat thyroid gland was reproduced by injection of a methacrylate casting medium and observed with a scanning electron microscope. The rat thyroid gland received the superior and inferior thyroid arteries and emitted the superior and inferior thyroid veins. Anastomosis between the interlobular arteries or between the interlobular veins was frequently observed in the thyroid gland. The arteriovenous anastomosis was rarely observed between the terminal branches of the lobular arteries and veins. The thyroid blood vascular bed was divided into lobular units which consisted of basket-like capillary networks surrounding the thyroid follicles; a small lobular unit consisted of a few networks, whereas a large one of fifty or more networks. Sizes and forms of the networks varied widely in each case. However, the networks in the superficial layers of the lateral parts of the thyroid gland were typically most developed. Regardless of its size and form, each network always received a proper afferent vessel from the lobular artery and issued a proper efferent vessel continuous with the lobular vein, though it was sometimes provided with an accessory afferent or efferent vessel. Only occasionally were the adjacent networks fused with each other or connected by transfollicular capillaries. Thus, the present data suggest that each follicular capillary network is a fairly independent functional-unit in the thyroid microcirculation. The capillaries of the network were sinusoidal in nature and sometimes protruded fine projections which indicated the neogenesis of capillaries. The blood vascular bed of the newborn rat thyroid gland was not always differentiated into basket-like capillary networks.
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