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Mast Cells

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Updated October 26, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Definition:

Mast cells are cells found throughout the body as part of our immune system.  Mast cells are particularly prominent in tissues of our bodies that interact with our external world, such as in the sinus passages and throughout our digestive systems.  Mast cells can also be found in the organs and tissue of our circulatory and nervous systems.

Mast cells play many important roles in the body, including:

  • Setting off a rapid inflammatory response to outside invaders, such as germs, viruses,and parasites.
  • Activation of the allergic response, with the release of the chemical  histamine.
  • Injury healing
  • Formation of new blood vessels.

After mast cells are released, the body releases chemicals known as cytokines, which are responsible for a longer-term inflammatory response.

 

For further information on the role of mast cells in irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), see:

 

  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  4. Glossary
  5. Mast Cells

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