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WAO Medical Book Review

Mast cells in allergic diseases. Chemical Immunology and Allergy. Vol. 87
Editors: Saito, H.; Okayama, Y.
Karger Basel 2005

List Price: $178.25 USD
Available from: Karger

Ron Walls MD, PhD
University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Mast cells were originally described by Paul Ehrlich in the 19th Century, and their role in the immediate allergic response is well-known. Their importance in the allergic reaction was reflected in a debate scheduled for a major meeting in Allergy some years back on whether mast cells or T cells were the most important cells in the allergic reaction! Less well recognized is their importance in other aspects of immunological reactions including innate immunity, angiogenesis and tissue remodelling. Mast cells are derived from haematopoietic progenitors in the bone marrow but spend their lives as tissue-dwelling effector cells.

This book is designed to bring together the latest work on mast cells from their development through to their physiological functions. The contributors are active workers in the area and bring the most current information to their contributions. The information is detailed but presented in a readable and engaging form.

This volume would be of most value to those who are working actively in the field of research or tertiary clinical practice or who are involved in teaching immunology and biology and want an up-to-date source of information about these interesting cells outside of their immediate area of interest

There are comprehensive accounts of the regulation of mast cell development and activation. This is followed by a detailed description of mast cell factors and receptors and their role in allergic and immunologic conditions. Their localization in airway smooth muscle bundles characterizes asthma. Their roles in airway smooth muscle hyperplasia and in airway remodelling in asthma and their involvement in allergic rhinitis is well covered. The model of “mast cell knock-in” mice and its contribution to understanding of late phase reactions and chronic allergic inflammation is well covered. The species differences in these cells are emphasized, and the point is made that one cannot extrapolate from mouse to human mast cells. This is one factor that has made the study of these cells so difficult.

The subject matter is presented lucidly, even to a non-specialist, and although a multi-author book, the quality of the presentations is uniformly very high. This is an authoritative account of our current knowledge of this fascinating cell, not only in immediate hypersensitivity reactions, but also in other aspects of the immune response. The book can be warmly recommended to researchers, teachers and clinicians who need ready access to an up-to-date, high level of scientific material, and to students about to embark on a postgraduate study of immunology or allergy. It is an important addition to the personal library of serious students and should be available for reference in libraries and in clinical and research departments.