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Exp Dermatol. 1999 Feb;8(1):1-16.

Mast cells and their mediators in cutaneous wound healing--active participants or innocent bystanders?

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Department of Dermatology, Charité-Virchow Clinic, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany.


Mast cells are traditionally viewed as effector cells of immediate type hypersensitivity reactions. There is, however, a growing body of evidence that the cells might play an important role in the maintenance of tissue homeostasis and repair. We here present our own data and those from the literature elucidating the possible role of mast cells during wound healing. Studies on the fate of mast cells in scars of varying ages suggest that these cells degranulate during wounding, with a marked decrease of chymase-positive cells, although the total number of cells does not decrease, based on SCF-receptor staining. Mast cells contain a plethora of preformed mediators like heparin, histamine, tryptase, chymase, VEGF and TNF-alpha which, on release during the initial stages of wound healing, affect bleeding and subsequent coagulation and acute inflammation. Various additional vasoactive and chemotactic, rapidly generated mediators (C3a, C5a, LTB4, LTC4, PAF) will contribute to these processes, whereas mast cell-derived proinflammatory and growth promoting peptide mediators (VEGF, FGF-2, PDGF, TGF-beta, NGF, IL-4, IL-8) contribute to neoangiogenesis, fibrinogenesis or re-epithelization during the repair process. The increasing number of tryptase-positive mast cells in older scars suggest that these cells continue to be exposed to specific chemotactic, growth- and differentiation-promoting factors throughout the process of tissue remodelling. All these data indicate that mast cells contribute in a major way to wound healing. their role as potential initiators of or as contributors to this process, compared to other cell types, will however have to be further elucidated.

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