Ties That Bind: Infant Cells Found In Mother’s Brains

The ties that bind mother and child may be more unbreakable than ever imagined. This bond has evolved to become a complex physiological process that not only binds us emotionally, but also affects our hormones, nerves, and almost every part of our bodies, including the brain.[1]

Researchers have now discovered genetically distinct cells in a woman’s brain. In the study, male DNA was found in the brains of deceased females and had potentially been present there for several decades, suggesting the females had acquired those cells while bearing a male fetus.[2] The presence of a small amount of cells that originated from a different individual, called microchimerism, occurs most often during pregnancy and may have a broad range of impacts from tissue repair to cancer prevention.[3]

The discovery of male “Y” chromosomes circulating in the blood of women after pregnancy is not new. Cells from other individuals have been found in organs such as the lung, thyroid, muscle, liver, heart, kidney and skin – and now they have been discovered embedded in the brain. But how did they get there? Studies suggest that cell exchange with mothers and their babies can happen through the placenta, the organ that connects them during pregnancy. Cells could also pass between twins in utero, and a mother could pass an older sibling’s cells back to a younger sibling during a later pregnancy. The trafficking of cells goes both ways and some women may have microchimeric cells from their own mothers!

The impact of all these microchimeric cells in a mother’s body is not yet known, but there are several possibilities. For example, researchers are investigating if the presence of these cells impact health.[2]

Research is ongoing, but this discovery definitely gives the phrase “ties that bind” a whole new meaning!

  1. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/scientists-discover-childrens-cells-living-in-mothers-brain/
  2. Chan WF1, Gurnot C, et al. PLoS One. 2012;7(9):e45592. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0045592. Epub 2012 Sep 26. “Male microchimerism in the human female brain.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23049819
  3. Chan WF1, Gurnot C, et al. PLoS One. 2012;7(9):e45592. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0045592. Epub 2012 Sep 26. “Male microchimerism in the human female brain.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23049819

Gina Satta

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Gina Satta is a writer, namer and new mom living in San Francisco. When she isn’t brainstorming brilliant copy, she is either looking for parking, making up new versions of classic nursery rhymes, or eating chocolate. Gina is a paid consultant to CBR.

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