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A histiocyte is a type of immune cell that eats foreign substances in an effort to protect the body from infection.

Alternative Names



Histiocytes do not travel through the blood. Instead, they remain in one part of the body.

Histiocytes are found in many organs and tissues, including the following:

  • Brain
  • Breast tissue
  • Liver
  • Lymph nodes
  • Placenta
  • Spleen
  • Tonsils

An abnormal number of histiocytes leads to a disease called Langerhan’s cell histiocyosis (previously called histiocytosis X).


Goronzy JJ, Weyand CM. The innate and adaptive immunesystems. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 44.

Review Date: 
Reviewed By: 
David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Stuart I. Henochowicz, MD, FACP, Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, Division of Allergy, Immunology, and Rheumatology, Georgetown University Medical School. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.