New roles for mast cells in pathogen defense and allergic disease.
Mast cells (MC) are specialized exocytic cells that lie beneath the external surfaces of the body. For many decades, MCs were thought to primarily function as effector cells for IgE mediated allergic diseases. However, recent evidence indicates that MCs also function as important cells in immune surveillance. When activated by pathogens, MCs initiate innate and adaptive immune responses thereby resulting in protection against pathogens. The question remains if MC activation may also function in establishing immune responses against allergens and hence allergic disease. New studies suggest that MCs are not only the effector cell of allergy but may also be the initiator of allergy.
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