Selected recent advances in understanding the role of human mast cells in health and disease

Francesca Levi-Schaffer*, Bernhard F. Gibbs, Jenny Hallgren, Carlo Pucillo, Frank Redegeld, Frank Siebenhaar, Joana Vitte, Soraya Mezouar, Moïse Michel, Pier Giorgio Puzzovio, Marcus Maurer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Mast cells are highly granular tissue-resident cells and key drivers of inflammation, particularly in allergies as well as in other inflammatory diseases. Most mast cell research was initially conducted in rodents but has increasingly shifted to the human system, with the advancement of research technologies and methodologies. Today we can analyze primary human cells including rare subpopulations, we can produce and maintain mast cells isolated from human tissues, and there are several human mast cell lines. These tools have substantially facilitated our understanding of their role and function in different organs in both health and disease. We can now define more clearly where human mast cells originate from, how they develop, which mediators they store, produce de novo, and release, how they are activated and by which receptors, and which neighboring cells they interact with and by which mechanisms. Considerable progress has also been made regarding the potential contribution of mast cells to disease, which, in turn, has led to the development of novel approaches for preventing key pathogenic effects of mast cells, heralding the era of mast cell–targeted therapeutics. In this review, we present and discuss a selection of some of the most significant advancements and remaining gaps in our understanding of human mast cells during the last 25 years, with a focus on clinical relevance.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1833-1844
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
Issue number6
Early online date8 Mar 2022
StatePublished - Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology


  • Allergy
  • cancer
  • human mast cells
  • receptors
  • signal transduction


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