Certain terms, by an enigmatic stubbornness, persist long after their usefulness is ended. Such is the case of the histiocyte—particularly in dermatology and dermatopathology.1 Reports of the demise of the histiocyte (italics to emphasize my disfavor), could not be too greatly exaggerated. Yet, the term perniciously remains as a curious and even arcane anachronism. Not only is the term histiocyte of dubious origin, but its very meaning has an Alice-in-Wonderland quality in which the term histiocyte may be used in almost any context regardless of its ancestry or cell lineage. (Somatocyte would be just as specific.)
Heretical as it may appear, it is time to expose the histiocyte and its mastery of cellular disguise for the mononuclear imposter that it is.
The histiocyte was a nicely tuned neologism coined by Aschoff and Kiyono2 to describe large mononuclear phagocytes in tissue. Aschoff3 subsequently included the histiocyte in
Headington JT. The Histiocyte: In Memoriam. Arch Dermatol. 1986;122(5):532–533. doi:10.1001/archderm.1986.01660170062020
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