Mastocytes and the Body’s Largest Organ

And now for something completely different: “Abnormal overexpression of mastocytes in skin biopsies of fibromyalgia patients.”  So my first question is what the heck are mastocytes (or mast cells)?  They’re a type of white blood cell that are connected with the immune system.  They play a role in allergic reactions and a host of other things.  A few things that jump out at me when reading about them, however, is their role in the blood-brain barrier, their connection to serotonin and natural heparin, and to immune disorders, in particular, autoimmune disorders and inflammatory disorders of the joints.  As always, I’m looking at an article written about six years ago without a lot of followup.  But here it is:

In short, the authors of this article, Blanco et al, assert that the skin itself is “injured in FMS patients,” and they call it a “papillary dermis disease” which is associated with increased numbers of mastocytes. In fact of the 63 fibro patients they did biopsies on, 100% of them had elevated mastocyte counts, up to 14 times the mastocytes seen in the control group.  What this really boils down to is that mastocytes release chemicals that can cause skin tenderness and pain, but they also release these chemicals into the bloodstream as well, which can reach the central nervous system and cause typical fibromyalgia symptoms.  Since mastocytes are found in the brain and the digestive tract, it sort of makes sense to me that people with fibro (with a very high probability of elevated mastocyte counts) would have trouble with digestion and cognitive functions so often mentioned as part of the disease.

The natural question is as always, what causes this?  Apparently injuries, either physical or chemical (how do you get a chemical injury?) can cause the mastocytes to degranulate and release these chemicals.  Immunoglobulin E (not a favorite word yet because I’m not sure what the heck it is) and “pathogen-derived products…C3a and C5a complement, endothelin 1…and substance P” can all also induce the mastocytes to release their little chemical gems.  Once the process starts, apparently those chemicals can induce further degranulation, and it sounds like a vicious cycle on the cellular level.  Since skin is the largest of the body’s organs, and in the skin of fibro patients there can be 14 times more mastocytes, that gives us a substantial chance to have a chemical imbalance stem from our skin.

Thus there are more connections and ties, but still no neat little bows.  I did find some more current research, published in 2016, that suggests treating antagonized mastocytes for fibro management, but I haven’t read it all the way through yet.  Watch for it in the library, Tsilioni et al.  I’m glad to see current research on this if for no other reason than Blanco et al seem so certain about fibromyalgia being a “dermis mastocyte-associated disease,” which does actually offer some hope for possible treatment options to manage fibro, which I have never heard about before.  So nose back to the ground and keep sniffing…

I wish I could just walk into the doctor’s office and say, test me for this (out comes a 6-foot roll of paper with the tests I want), and give me these things to treat me (out comes a second roll of paper).  Let me be your guinea pig!  You can’t mess me up any more than I am already!

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