The circulatory system is an organ system that permits blood and lymph circulation to transport nutrients (such as amino acids and electrolytes), oxygen, carbon dioxide, hormones, blood cells, etc. to and from cells in the body to nourish it and help to fight diseases, stabilize body temperature and pH, and to maintain homeostasis.
This system is often seen as strictly as a blood distribution network, but some consider the circulatory system to be composed collectively of the cardiovascular system, which distributes blood, and the lymphatic system, which circulates lymph. Blood is a fluid consisting of plasma, red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets that is circulated by the heart through the vertebrate vascular system, carrying oxygen and nutrients to and waste materials away from all body tissues. Lymph is essentially recycled excess blood plasma after it has been filtered from the interstitial fluid (between cells) and returned to the lymphatic system. The cardiovascular (from Latin words meaning ‘heart’-‘vessel’) system comprises the blood, heart, and blood vessels. The lymph, lymph nodes, and lymph vessels form the lymphatic system, which returns filtered blood plasma from the interstitial fluid (between cells) as lymph.
While humans, as well as other vertebrates, have a closed cardiovascular system (meaning that the blood never leaves the network of arteries, veins and capillaries), some invertebrate groups have an open cardiovascular system. The lymphatic system, on the other hand, is an open system providing an accessory route for excess interstitial fluid to get returned to the blood. The more primitive, diploblastic animal phyla lack circulatory systems.
An animation of a typical human red blood cell cycle in the circulatory system. This animation occurs at real time (20 seconds of cycle) and shows the red blood cell deform as it enters capillaries, as well as changing color as it alternates in states of oxygenation along the circulatory system.