ScienceDaily (2008-01-17) — In demonstrating that a group of calcium ion channels play a crucial role in triggering inflammatory responses, researchers have not only solved a longstanding molecular mystery regarding the onset of asthma and allergy symptoms, but have also provided a fundamental discovery regarding the functioning of mast cells.
A group of immune cells found in tissues throughout the body, mast cells were once exclusively known for their role in allergic reactions, according to the study’s lead author Monika Vig, PhD, an investigator in the Department of Pathology at BIDMC and Instructor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. “Mast cells store inflammatory cytokines and compounds [including histamine and heparin] in sacs called granules,” she explains. “When the mast cells encounter an allergen — pollen, for example — they ‘degranuate,’ releasing their contents and triggering allergic reactions.”
But, she adds, in recent years, scientists have uncovered numerous other roles for mast cells, suggesting they are key to a number of biological processes and are involved in diseases ranging from multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis to cancer and atherosclerosis. … > read full article
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