Mast cells were identified by electronmicroscopy in the alveolar wall of the lung in 20 subjects (10 normal, 10 abnormal). A quantitative and qualitative study was made of the mast cells. In the normal lung there was an average concentration of 350 mast cells/mm2 of alveolar wall and in the abnormal 523/mm2. Mast cells occupied approximately 1.6-2.1% of the area of the alveolar wall. There was marked variation in the structure of the mast cell granules but no differences between those in the normal and abnormal lungs. There was evidence that constant degranulation of mast cells may be occurring in the lung. The role that alveolar mast cells may play in the vasoconstrictor response to alveolar hypoxia is discussed. It is suggested that the tachypnoea present in asthma may partly be due to release of mediators from sensitised mast cells within the alveolar wall.
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