What's This About Mast Cells and New Asthma Research?

Last updated: May 2018

Researchers are uncovering more about the role of mast cells in asthma. These cells are hot right now, with lots of research in the the works. Researchers are particularly looking at the role of mast cells, in particular, their function and the implication of Micropthalmania transcription factor (MTF) and its possible role and importance in regulating the development, number, and function of mast cells. It is important to note that scientist are just scratching the surface of as to what this all means and its relationship to Pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH), which is thought to be a main regulator.1 Scientists are learning that PDH is an important regulator and could possibly have a critical role in mast cell function. It may be possible that this progress could become a target for manipulating allergic diseases1. Don’t panic about possibly not know everything about the science or wish that you spent more time paying attention in Gr.11 biology when the Krebs cycle was covered. There is a long way to go in this research but there is exciting progress.

Here is a bit of an overview on how this is related to asthma.

First, let’s take a quick look at mast cells.

There is evidence that human mast cells are players in the pathophysiology of asthma. What is interesting to note is that mast cells, but not T cells or eosinophils, congregate within bronchial smooth muscle bundles in asthmatics but not in the the normal subjects or those with eosinophilic bronchitis. There are thoughts that this research will lead to better understanding phenotypes.2 Who knew?

Mast cells live in all normal tissue and are major players in tissue homeostasis, wound healing, and host defense. It is thought that chronic mast cell activation contributes to many diseases including asthma. The chronic activation, synthesis, and release of many pro-inflammatory mediators and cytokines is thought to be part of the pathophysiology of asthma. There is evidence that mast cells localize in three main areas: airway smooth muscle, airway mucous gland, and bronchial epithelium. 2 Essentially these cells are very important in the pathogenesis of asthma and researchers are working on figuring out the mechanisms that are still not understood. The challenge that researchers are facing is that “mast cell stabilizing drugs” have struggled to be effective in improving asthma. Research is ongoing and the future is looking bright.

Have you thought about ongoing research in asthma? Do you ever feel that asthma is a bottom feeder on the disease food chain although it affects so many people. Don’t lose hope many advocates and researchers are working hard to improve the lives of asthmatics.


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