What is it about?

In the course of a histochemical study of neurosecretion in the hypothalamus of the European hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus), conspicuous cells stained by alcian blue were noticed in the habenular nuclei and dorsal parts of the thalamus. Other histochemical tests confirmed the identity of the cells as mast cells.

Featured Image

Why is it important?

Previously, mast cells were not known to occur in the brain or spinal cord. Later work, including electron microscopy, showed that some of the mast cells were perivascular, whereas others, notably in the medial habenular nucleus, were within the parenchyma of the brain tissue closely surrounded by neurons and glial cells. Synapses between neurons and mast cells were not seen (Kiernan, J. A. 1971. Ultrastructure of mast cells in the diencephalon of the hedgehog. Journal of Anatomy 111, 347). Similarly located mast cells were later seen in the brains of the tree-shrew and the slow loris, but not in several other mammals (Kiernan, J. A. 1976. A comparative survey of the mast cells of the mammalian brain. Journal of Anatomy 121, 303-311).


The authors were medical students at the University of Birmingham, UK. Both had recently completed an intercalated year of research in the Department of Anatomy. A supporting letter from the head of the department, Sir Solly Zuckerman(1904-1993), probably helped with getting this communication accepted as a letter to Nature.

Dr John A Kiernan
Western University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Mast Cells in the Central Nervous System, Nature, May 1966, Nature,
DOI: 10.1038/210756b0.
You can read the full text:



The following have contributed to this page