Volume 14, Number 9—September 2008
Specialized cells found near the dermal-epidermal junction, characterized by numerous membrane-bound granules with dense cores. The cells were named after German anatomy professor Friedrich Sigmund Merkel, who experimented with osmium tetroxide staining and described these cells in 1875. First identified in the skin of a mole, they were later found in human skin. The cells are responsible for the highly malignant skin tumor known as Merkel cell carcinoma. An infectious cause for Merkel cell carcinoma has been proposed.
Sources: Dorland’s illustrated medical dictionary, 31st edition. Philadelphia: Saunders/Elsevier; 2007; http://www.whonamedit.com; Merkel FS. Tastzellen und Tastkörperchen bei den Hausthieren und beim Menschen. Archiv für mikroskopische Anatomie. 1875;11:636–52; Foulongne, V, Kluger N, Dereure O, Brieu N, Guillot B, Segondy M. Merkel cell polyomavirus and Merkel cell carcinoma, France [letter]. Emerg Infect Dis. 2008;14:1491–2.