For your Just Too Cool file.
A reader sent me a link to an article about the integration of fetal cells into the mother’s body and vice versa. The content of the article is excerpted from a book called Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies?: The Surprising Science of Pregnancy by Jena Pinctott, who also did the aforementioned excerpting.
Here is a portion with my emphases and comments.. I love the title of the article, which is a riff on an old scripture of the feminist movement’s canon:
Our Selves, Other Cells
By Jena Pincott at 6:00 am Tuesday, Jan 3
Living With Someone Else’s Cells
Is it any solace to sentimental mothers that their babies will always be part of them?
Of course, we nosy mothers would like to know exactly what our children’s cells are up to while they hang out in us. Are they just biding time in our bodies? Are they mother’s little helpers? Or are they baby rebels, planning an insurgency? [Is that the argument of some of the pro-abortion advocates? That the baby is an an “invader” whom a woman has a right to fight off?]
It turns out that when fetal cells are good, they are very, very good. They may protect mothers from some forms of cancer. Fetal cells show up significantly more often in the breast tissue of women who don’t have breast cancer than in women who do (43 versus 14 percent). Why is this? Fetal cells are foreign to the mother because they contain DNA from the baby’s father. One theory is that this “otherness” stimulates the mother’s immune system just enough to help keep malignant cells in check. The more fetal cells there are in a woman’s body, the less active are autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. These conditions improve during pregnancy and for some time afterward — suggesting that the mother’s immune system is more focused on attacking the “other,” not herself. There’s also tantalizing evidence that fetal cells may offer the mother increased resistance to certain diseases, thanks to the presence of the father’s immune system genes. These are new weapons in the war chest.
Some fetal cells have the potential to grow up and be anything. While many of the cells that enter the mother are immune system cells, some are stem cells. [Sounds like the only legitimate form of embryonic stem cell therapy. I wouldn’t push that analogy, however, since therapy implies an illness. Pregnancy is NOT an illness, which is an argument of the pro-abortion people.] Stem cells have magical properties: they can morph into other types of cells (a process called differentiation), like liver, heart, or brain cells, and become part of those organs. Fetal stem cells migrate to injury sites—for instance, they’ve been found in diseased thyroid and liver tissue and have turned themselves into thyroid and liver cells respectively. At the triage sites of wounds they accelerate healing, reducing scars after pregnancy and restoring the normal structure of the skin. It’s striking, the evidence that a fetus’s cells repair and rejuvenate moms. Of course, evolutionarily speaking, the baby has its own interests in mind. It needs a healthy mom.
Then there’s baby on the brain. This is the truly startling stuff. Researchers working with mice have found evidence that cells from the fetus can cross a mother’s brain-blood barrier and generate new neurons. If this happens in humans—and there’s reason to believe it does—then it means, in a very real sense, that our babies integrate themselves into the circuitry of our minds. Could this help explain the remarkable finding that new mothers grow new gray matter in their prefrontal cortex (goals and social control), hypothalamus (hormonal regulation), and other areas of the brain?
You can read the rest there.
Very cool stuff.