Mast cell biology: introduction and overview.
In recent years, the field of mast cell biology has expanded well beyond the boundaries of atopic disorders and anaphy laxis, on which it has been historically focused. The biochemical and signaling events responsible for the development and regulation of mast cells has been increasingly studied, aided in large part by novel breakthroughs in laboratory techniques used to study these cells. The result of these studies has been a more comprehensive definition of mast cells that includes added insights to their overall biology as well as the various disease states that can now be traced to defects in mast cells. This introductory chapter outlines and highlights the various topics of mast cell biology that will be discussed in further detail in subsequent chapters.