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The Functions of the Artery

author image Alison Smith
Alison Smith is an academic from Toronto, who has six years of experience publishing scientific manuscripts and abstracts within “Brain Research” and “The Society for Neuroscience.” Smith obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Waterloo, and held doctoral funding from the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).
The Functions of the Artery
A doctor presses on a patient's arterial vein in the wrist. Photo Credit: lucia_lucci/iStock/Getty Images

The arteries are the highway system of the body. They provide an extensive network throughout the body to transport needed supplies to the cells and eliminate waste products. Arteries come in a variety of sizes that range from the large aorta in the chest to small capillaries found within the lungs. An artery is made up of three connective tissue layers that have the capacity to stretch. In conjunction with the heart, arteries expand and contract to push the blood throughout the circulatory system, according to the Franklin Institute.

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For the body to function properly, adequate amounts of oxygen must be delivered to the cells. Oxygen is used for basic cellular functions, such as energy production and chemical reactions. The arteries act as an oxygen transport system. Small arteries in the lungs called capillaries pick-up oxygen at the moment of inhalation and carry it to the left side of the heart. The heart pumps oxygenated blood to the whole body via a major artery called the aorta, according to The Franklin Institute.

Waste Removal

Cellular function produces wastes products, such as carbon dioxide and urea. These waste products diffuse into the blood where they are carried off to the lungs, kidneys, liver or skin to be excreted as an exhaled breath, urine, stool or sweat. One example occurs when red blood cells deliver oxygen to the cells then pick-up carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is transported to the lungs where it is excreted through exhalation, according to Estrella Mountain Community College.

Nutrient Delivery

The body requires vitamins, minerals, glucose and other chemicals to function properly. The arteries of the body provide a way to transport these substances to the cells. When food is digested, nutrients are absorbed primarily by the small intestine. In fact 90 percent of nutrient absorption occurs at the initial portion of the small intestine. Absorbed nutrients are transported to the liver for filtration and processing and then distributed throughout the body by the arteries, according to Springfield Technical Community College.


The arteries transport white blood cells to provide protection against foreign substances. There are a variety of white blood cells including neutrophils, eosinophils, basophils, lymphocytes and monocytes. White blood cells destroy foreign substances like viruses and bacteria by producing antibodies to overpower the invader or by engulfing and destroying the substance, according to The Franklin Institute.

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