Cytokine Production Patterns in Patients with Systemic Mastocytosis Compared with Atopic
Dermatitis and Healthy Individuals
Summary: This study will examine how mast cells (cells involved in allergic reactions)
migrate and multiply in the skin of patients with mastocytosis, a condition characterized by
too many mast cells in the body. The mast cells tend to multiply in the skin, causing dark,
itchy skin spots known as urticaria pigmentosa. This study will determine if the skin of
patients with mastocytosis produces chemicals called cytokines that cause mast cells to
migrate to the skin and multiply. The findings will be compared with those from normal
volunteers and patients with atopic dermatitis, a skin disease characterized by recurrent
itchy rash usually seen in people with a family history of allergies.
Healthy volunteers, patients with mastocytosis and patients with atopic dermatitis 18 years
of age and older may be eligible for this study. Participants will have the following tests
- Suction blisters - Two to eight small blisters will be raised on the forearm using
gentle suction. The fluid in the blisters will be collected with a syringe to study
the chemicals produced by the skin. The tops of the blisters may be removed for
- Template study - Patients with high cytokine content in the blister fluid may have a
template study. For this procedure, a plastic block (template) with holes matching the
blister sites is placed over the blistered area. The wells of the template are filled
with salt water and the fluid is removed with a syringe at 3, 8 and/or 24 hours.
Patients are hospitalized for 24 hours for this study.
- Skin biopsy - A skin biopsy will be done to correlate cytokine levels with the number
of mast cells in the skin. An area of skin is numbed with an anesthetic and a small
circular area about the size of a pencil eraser is removed, using a sharp cookie
- Blood draw - About 4 tablespoons of blood will be drawn to compare the chemicals in the
blood with those in the blister fluid. The blood will also be analyzed for a complete
blood count, clotting factors and substances that may be elevated in people with
Systemic mastocytosis is a disease characterized by an abnormal accumulation of mast cells
in skin, bone marrow and viscera. Precise mechanisms of events leading to the migration and
proliferation of mast cells in skin is not known. We propose to investigate the in vivo
cytokine and chemokine production patterns of human skin in patients with mastocytosis and
compare these findings to those of patients with atopic dermatitis and to healthy
volunteers, using the suction blister technique. The cytokines/chemokines of interest in
this study are stem cell factor (SCF), interleukin (IL)-3, IL-4, IL-6, IL-9, IL-10,
TNF-alpha, TGF-beta, MCP-1 and RANTES, all of which have been shown to take part in the
proliferation, differentiation or chemotaxis of mast cells. Our hypothesis is that human
skin is producing mediators which allow the mast cells to migrate and proliferate in skin,
resulting in the clinical picture of urticaria pigmentosa. Suction blisters will be
generated in patients, and the cytokine/chemokine contents of the blister fluids will be
analyzed by immunoassay. If the chemokine content of the blister fluid is found to be high,
chemotaxis of mast cell precursors to the skin may also be examined in vivo by placing a
template filled with sterile saline over the blister sites. Punch biopsies will be
performed to correlate cytokine levels with mast cell numbers. This study will aid in
understanding the pathogenesis of cutaneous mast cell disease and may provide insights into
the regulation of mast cell growth and differentiation in tissue-specific microenvironments.
It is hoped that these studies will contribute to the design of novel treatment strategies
against mast cell associated skin diseases.
General: Age equal to or greater than 18.
Access to a primary medical care provider outside of the NIH.
Able to give informed consent.
No history of malignancy or autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis, vasculitis,
pyoderma gangrenosum, psoriasis.
No use of systemic corticosteroids within the past month.
No use of local corticosteroids at the proposed blistering site within the past month.
No evidence of current acute infection.
INR less than or equal to 1.5, PTT less than or equal to 40, platelet count greater than
or equal to 100,000/mm(3).
No personal or family history of keloid formation.
Blood glucose less than or equal to 160.
No use of any investigative drugs within the past month.
No allergy to lidocaine.
Healthy volunteers must not have a history of atopic dermatitis, mastocytosis or chronic
Mastocytosis: Histologic evidence of mast cell hyperplasia in at least one organ system.
Atopic Dermatitis: Must have at least 3 major and 3 minor criteria.
No history of mastocytosis.