A new era for an old cell: heightened appreciation of mast cell disease emerges

  • Lawrence B. Afrin
    Reprint requests: Lawrence B. Afrin, MD, Division of Hematology, Oncology & Transplantation, University of Minnesota, MMC 480, 420 Delaware Street SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455
    Division of Hematology, Oncology and Transplantation, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minn
    Search for articles by this author
Published:March 09, 2016DOI:
      A special section in this issue of Translational Research focuses on an area of human biology—mast cells (MCs)—and the diseases resulting from MC dysfunction. Of hematopoietic origin, MCs soon leave the marrow (and other tissues where MC progenitors reside), circulate briefly, and migrate into peripheral tissues where they live for several to many years. Although MCs preferentially site (typically sparsely and quiescently) at environmental interfaces and around vessels, no tissue is absent of these heavily granulated cells which react to insults and other stimuli mainly by expressing potent mediators prestored in granules and synthesized on demand. MCs principally serve to defend the host and guide tissue growth and development. Long recognized as central to allergy, MC dysfunction has been relegated to mere niches in many other medical domains, principally due to the presumed rarity of other “serious” (eg, malignant) forms of MC disease.
      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Translational Research
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Crivellato E.
        • Ribatti D.
        The mast cell: an evolutionary perspective.
        Biol Rev Camb Philos Soc. 2010; 85: 347-360
        • Akin C.
        • Valent P.
        • Metcalfe D.D.
        Mast cell activation syndrome: proposed diagnostic criteria.
        J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2010; 126: 1099-1104.e4
        • Ibelgaufts H.
        “Mast Cells” in COPE: Cytokines and Cells Online Pathfinder Encyclopaedia.
        2016 (Available at) (Accessed March 23, 2016)
        • Theoharides T.C.
        • Kempuraj D.
        • Sant G.R.
        Mast cell involvement in interstitial cystitis: a review of human and experimental evidence.
        Urology. 2001; 57: 47-55
        • Brightling C.E.
        • Bradding P.
        The re-emergence of the mast cell as a pivotal cell in asthma pathogenesis.
        Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2005; 5: 130-135
        • Ford A.C.
        • Talley N.J.
        Mucosal inflammation as a potential etiological factor in irritable bowel syndrome: a systematic review.
        J Gastroenterol. 2011; 46: 421-431
        • Conti P.
        • Kempuraj D.
        Important role of mast cells in multiple sclerosis.
        Mult Scler Relat Disord. 2016; 5: 77-80
        • Divoux A.
        • Moutel S.
        • Poitou C.
        • et al.
        Mast cells in human adipose tissue: link with morbid obesity, inflammatory status, and diabetes.
        J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2012; 97: E1677-E1685
        • Shi M.A.
        • Shi G.-P.
        Different roles of mast cells in obesity and diabetes: lessons from experimental animals and humans.
        Front Immunol. 2012; 3: 7
        • Theoharides T.C.
        • Angelidou A.
        • Alysandratos K.D.
        • et al.
        Mast cell activation and autism.
        Biochim Biophys Acta. 2012; 1822: 34-41
        • Afrin L.B.
        • Pöhlau D.
        • Raithel M.
        • et al.
        Mast cell activation disease: An underappreciated cause of neurologic and psychiatric symptoms and diseases.
        Brain Behav Immun. 2015; 50: 314-321
        • Maurer M.
        • Theoharides T.
        • Granstein R.D.
        • et al.
        What is the physiological function of mast cells?.
        Exp Dermatol. 2003; 12: 886-910
        • Afrin L.B.
        The presentation, diagnosis and treatment of mast cell activation syndrome: review article.
        Curr Allergy Clin Immunol. 2014; 3 (Available at): 146-160
        • Anderson G.
        • Horvath J.
        The growing burden of chronic disease in America.
        Public Health Rep. 2004; 119: 263-270
        • Barnett K.
        • Mercer S.W.
        • Norbury M.
        • Watt G.
        • Wyke S.
        • Guthrie B.
        Epidemiology of multimorbidity and implications for health care, research, and medical education: a cross-sectional study.
        Lancet. 2012; 380: 37-43
        • Molderings G.J.
        • Haenisch B.
        • Bogdanow M.
        • Fimmers R.
        • Nöthen M.M.
        Familial occurrence of systemic mast cell activation disease.
        PLoS One. 2013; 8: e76241
        • Afrin L.B.
        Mast cell activation disease and the modern epidemic of chronic inflammatory disease.
        Transl Res. 2016; 174: 33-59
        • Modena B.D.
        • Dazy K.
        • White D.
        Emerging concepts: mast cell involvement in allergic diseases.
        Transl Res. 2016; 174: 98-121
        • Virk H.
        • Arthur G.
        • Bradding P.
        Mast cells and their activation in lung disease.
        Transl Res. 2016; 174: 60-76
        • Liu C.
        • Zhang J.
        • Shi G.P.
        Interaction between allergic asthma and atherosclerosis.
        Transl Res. 2016; 174: 5-22
        • Kolck U.W.
        • Haenisch B.
        • Molderings G.J.
        Cardiovascular symptoms in patients with systemic mast cell activation disease.
        Transl Res. 2016; 174: 23-32
        • Georgin-Lavialle S.
        • Gaillard R.
        • Moura D.
        • Hermine O.
        Neuropsychiatric features in mastocytosis.
        Transl Res. 2016; ([Epub ahead of print])
        • Hermine O.
        • Lortholary O.
        • Leventhal P.S.
        • et al.
        Case-control cohort study of patients' perceptions of disability in mastocytosis.
        PLoS One. 2008; 3: e2266
        • Moura D.S.
        • Sultan S.
        • Georgin-Lavialle S.
        • et al.
        Evidence for cognitive impairment in mastocytosis: prevalence, features and correlations to depression.
        PLoS One. 2012; 7: e39468
        • Molderings G.J.
        Transgenerational transmission of systemic mast cell activation disease—genetic and epigenetic features.
        Transl Res. 2016; 174: 86-97
        • Molderings G.J.
        The genetic basis of mast cell activation disease—looking through a glass darkly.
        Crit Rev Oncol Hematol. 2015; 93: 75-89