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December 1980

The Role of Langerhans' Cells in Immunity

Author Affiliations

Bethesda, Md

Arch Dermatol. 1980;116(12):1361-1362. doi:10.1001/archderm.1980.01640360035013

In 1868, Paul Langerhans, a medical student in Berlin, described a network of cells in human epidermis in an article entitled "On Nerves of the Human Skin."1 He discovered these dendritic cells using a gold chloride stain that has a particular affinity for nerve tissue, and he concluded that they were nerve receptors. Later, other investigators also considered these cells, which now bear Langerhans' name, to be a component of the peripheral nervous system. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Langerhans' cells were thought to be somehow related to melanocytes, representing worn-out melanocytes,2 daughter cells of dividing melanocytes,3 or melanocytes in an arrested stage of development.4 Considerable evidence had also accumulated to suggest that Langerhans' cells were of mesenchymal origin5; however, still other studies suggested that they were of ectodermal origin.6

In the late 1970s, there was a resurgence of interest in Langerhans' cells and,

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