Selasa, 19 Februari 2008

My Mother's Cells Within Me

Nearly all of us harbor cells that come from a close relative. The phenomenon, called microchimerism, occurs because the placenta is not a perfect barrier to formed cells - sometimes maternal cells make their way into the fetus, and vice versa. Apparently some of these cells live indefinitely in their new host, which is surprising since foreign cells are usually attacked and killed.

Scientists are still working out what the foreign cells may be doing in their host. In some cases they may differentiate into fully functional tissue cells in the host. For example, genetically female heart cells (presumably from the mother) have been found in males. In other cases these foreign cells may trigger immune disorders later in life, when the immune system of the host finally recognizes and attacks the foreign cells. Diseases that may have a microchimerism link include several autoimmune inflammatory diseases of connective tissue (scleroderma, lupus erythematosus, and rheumatoid arthritis), and perhaps even Type 1 diabetes, a disease characterized by poor regulation of blood sugar.

Reference: Nelson, J.Lee. Your Cells are My Cells. Scientific American Feb. 2008, pp. 72-79.

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