Blood Journal
Leading the way in experimental and clinical research in hematology

Mast cells and mastocytosis

  1. Dean D. Metcalfe1

    As one trained in internal medicine and in immunology, I can trace my interest in mast cells to clinical fellowships in Allergy and Immunology and Rheumatology during which my research progressively focused on cells involved in the induction of immediate hypersensitivity. While a fellow at the Robert B. Brigham Hospital at the Harvard Medical School in the late 1970s, I examined proteoglycans within mast cell granules under the watchful mentorship of Dr K. Frank Austin and Dr Jerry Silbert. Among other observations, we were able to report that human mast cells synthesized and stored heparin.


    Dean D. Metcalfe

    When I accepted a tenure track position within the intramural program of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, I continued studies on the components of the mast cell granule, which led to challenges facing investigators on how to maintain both mouse and human mast cells in culture. This in turn led to an interest in critical cytokines and growth factors regulating mast cell proliferation and activation. At the same time, as a clinical investigator, I decided to study mastocytosis, a disease associated with a pathologic increase in mast cells, but about which almost nothing was known in terms of etiology.

    Fortuitously, these basic and clinical interests in the control of mast cell proliferation and function paralleled and became the foundation of subsequent research. On one hand, my colleagues and I were part of the efforts to understand human mast cell development, and on the other, among the group of investigators that worked out the clinical patterns of mastocytosis and developed approaches to management. Along the way, these 2 interests have allowed me to contribute to the understanding of the biology of human mast cells and the characterization of human mastocytosis, and to help improve the management of patients with diseases involving mast cells in their pathogenesis.

  1. 1Laboratory of Allergic Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD

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