Mast cells are immune cells known mostly for their unwanted effects: they cause the wheezing of asthma, the itching of eczema, the sneezing and runny nose of hay fever and, in extreme cases, the life-threatening shock of anaphylaxis. But researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have found that these cells also have some very beneficial effects.
Stephen Galli, MD, the Mary Hewitt Loveless, MD, Professor and chair of pathology, and his colleagues have shown for the first time that mast cells can provide protection from a potentially deadly condition known as sepsis by destroying a molecule that contributes to the pathology and death associated with this bacterial infection. Their results are to be published in the Nov. 14 advance online edition of Nature. The first authors, Marcus Maurer, MD, and Jochen Wedemeyer, MD, were postdoctoral fellows in Gallis laboratory during the study.
"What we have uncovered in this study is a new role for the mast cell, which is to limit the amount of damage caused by endothelin-1, a molecule that is produced in high amounts by the body during severe sepsis, as well as in association with other disorders," said Galli. Sepsis is a severe illness caused by overwhelming infection of toxin-producing bacteria in the bloodstream. The effects of sepsis in humans include a high fever, hyperventilation and diarrhea and can be life threatening, especially in patients with other medical problems.
Mitzi Baker | EurekAlert!
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