Paul Ehrlich's Mastzellen: A Historical Perspective of Relevant Developments in Mast Cell Biology

Document Type


Publication Date



Following the discovery of mast cells (or mastzellen) by the prolific physician researcher, Paul Ehrlich, many advances have improved our understanding of these cells and their fascinating biology. The discovery of immunoglobulin E and receptors for IgE and IgG on mast cells heralded further in vivo and in vitro studies, using molecular technologies and gene knockout models. Mast cells express an array of inflammatory mediators including tryptase, histamine, cytokines, chemokines, and growth factors. They play a role in many varying disease states, from atopic diseases, parasitic infections, hematological malignancies, and arthritis to osteoporosis. This review will attempt to summarize salient evolving areas in mast cell research over the last few centuries that have led to our current understanding of this pivotal multifunctional cell.