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This information was reviewed and approved by The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (6/30/2009).

Mastocytosis is caused by an excess of mast cells, which are part of the immune system, throughout the body. They release chemical signals (such as histamine) to direct other parts of the immune system to specific areas of the body where they are needed to defend against disease. Mast cells are frequently found in the skin, lymph nodes, internal organs, and the lining of the lung, stomach, and intestine.

Mast cells may also be important in healing wounds. For example, when scabs itch, it may be due to the histamine released by mast cells. Researchers also think mast cells may have a role in the growth of blood vessels.

No one has ever been found to have a lack or absence of mast cells, so many scientists have concluded that they are critical for life.

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Rohit K. Katial

Rohit K. Katial, MD