Mast Cells


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Mast cells are very similar to basophils (a type of white blood cell). It is thought by many that mast cells are actually basophils that have become tissue specific. Most cellular experts, however, believe that while both basophils and mast cells originate in the bone marrow, they have different parent cells. It is when they leave the bone marrow to circulate throughout the body that the difference becomes more apparent. Mast cells leave the bone marrow as immature cells and will only mature once they reach their targeted tissue. It is this final tissue destination that will determine the exact characteristics of the mast cell once it settles. There are two different types of mast cell: those that are from connective tissue and those that line the mucosal regions (such as the digestive tract, lungs, nasal passages, mouth).  Both types are found in the region of blood vessels. When an allergic response is initiated the mast cells are prompted to release large amounts of histamines into the affected area. This is what causes the majority of allergic response symptoms. Antihistamines are often used to counteract the effects of histamine release into the body.