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Mast Cells, Associated With Inflammation and Allergies, May Be Implicated in IC/BPS

Regauer S. Mast cell activation syndrome in pain syndromes bladder pain syndrome/interstitial cystitis and vulvodynia. Transl Androl Urol. 2016 Jun;5(3):396-7. doi: 10.21037/tau.2016.03.12.
A mast cell is a type of white blood cell that’s associated with allergic reactions and inflammation, and is often found in the nose, mouth, digestive tract and other areas where the body meets the outside world. The author of this article outlines what is known to date about the relationship between mast cells and pain conditions such as interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome (IC/BPS). There is a small but increasing number of investigations suggesting that mast cells are implicated, and have a complex role, in pain syndromes. The research suggests that these cells are active early in the development of pain syndromes by, for example, sensitizing nerve fibers; and later on, the cells also appear to have a role in acute and chronic pain as the disease develops. Specifically in IC/BPS, the findings to date are somewhat unclear. Some researchers say the role of mast cells in IC/BPS is overlooked or dismissed. European researchers have suggested that mast cell counts in bladder muscles could be used to diagnose IC/BPS. In one large-scale study, investigators looked at mast cell counts in patients with IC/BPS, overactive bladder, and normal controls; while they did find a significantly higher density of mast cells in the patients with IC/BPS and Hunner’s lesion, all patient groups had increased mucosal mast cells, possibly due to other diseases they had, including allergies and asthma, that also contribute to increases in mast cells. More research is clearly needed, but mast cells might be a good target for future drugs that are designed to directly influence or ameliorate the causes of pain associated with IC/BPS and other pain syndromes.