Did you know that as a mother even after you give birth your child’s cells are still within your body and are working to heal you? These cells remain within your being and move forth through your blood and into your organs to work their ‘magic.’
This whole ordeal is known as fetomaternal microchimerism and was first discovered back in the late 19th century. Cells between mother and child are very easily exchanged according to Live Science and this somewhat explains how Y chromosomes are sometimes found within the cells of women who happen to be mothers. Because these chromosomes are only found in men, they could be absorbed through the baby that was once present.
A biologist from the University of California named Amy Boddy told Live Science that the cell exchange begins about six weeks into the pregnancy and from there continues until the baby is born. These cells can exist within the mother until she eventually dies and will work wonders in regards to her health while they are present. While we do not know for sure what kinds of cells these are it is quite likely that they are stem cells as they can be found within so many different kinds of tissue types.
A team of pathologists at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands carried out an experiment back in 2015 that collected tissue from 26 women who had passed on during or after giving birth (all who had happened to be carrying males) and noted that Y chromosomes were quite present. This further proving that cells from both sons and daughters are capable of ‘escaping the uterus,’ as NYTimes worded it. It seems women almost always acquire these fetal cells and can either disappear or settle in for the long-run.
It turns out that all pregnant women carry some fetal cells and DNA, with up to 6 percent of the free-floating DNA in the mother’s blood plasma coming from the fetus. After the baby is born, those numbers plummet but some cells remain. In 1996, Diana Bianchi, a geneticist at Tufts Medical Center, found male fetal cells in a mother’s blood 27 years after she had given birth.
Evidence is building that those fetal cells aren’t just lounging around in Mom; in fact, they might be active participants in a mother’s health. But as research in this new field accumulates, so too do the perplexing contradictions about these rare alien elements.
Scientists investigating fetal microchimerism first explored the cells’ role in autoimmune diseases, which are much more common in women. They found fetal cells in the skin of women with scleroderma and in the spleens of women with systemic sclerosis, both autoimmune diseases. More recent studies suggest that fetal cells may actually protect women against autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis. These effects might be caused by the mother’s immune response to the child’s cells.
“With cancer, there’s evidence both ways,” says Bianchi, who is now researching how fetal DNA and RNA in a mother’s blood could be used for prenatal testing. (The goal is to replace invasive tests like amniocentesis for genetic disorders such as Down’s syndrome.) Motherhood reduces a woman’s risk of having breast cancer later, and mothers with breast cancer have lower levels of fetal cells in their blood than do mothers without cancer. The immune response triggered by fetal cells might help the body detect cancer cells later in life. Fetal cells have, however, been found in cervical cancers but not in the cervical tissue of women without the cancer. Like cancer cells, some fetal cells can reproduce indefinitely, and studies in mice have found lingering fetal cells congregating in lung tumors. Researchers don’t know what fetal cells are doing in tumors, but they aren’t prepared to give the cells a clean bill of health.
While we do not know much about all of this just yet, as time passes we hope to better understand it. There is a lot to study on this topic and in the future, we will know just how beneficial these leftover cells can be and perhaps why they are left to begin with. What do you think about all of this?