Thursday, February 01, 2007

Mothers Interfere at a Cellular Level

Ever worry that you are becoming your mom? New research shows that this may be more than a figure of speech.

This form of maternal meddling is called microchimerism. A mother's cells can endure until a child reaches adulthood and perhaps throughout life. But scientists do not know exactly how common microchimerism is. It is detected more often in people with autoimmune conditions, which has led to the suggestion that the maternal cells could trigger those diseases. But healthy people have them too, seemingly with no ill effects.

he technique found maternal cells in about half the diabetics' samples, but in only about one-third of the healthy siblings' samples and in less than one-fifth of those from the unrelated volunteers. Moreover, the microchimerism was not only more common but also more pronounced in diabetics. Dr Nelson found that diabetics with maternal cells tended to have more of them than did non-diabetics with maternal cells. Why?

In the second half of the study, Dr Nelson examined the pancreatic tissue of four dead boys, one of whom had been diabetic. Specialised cells within that tissue, called islet beta cells, make insulin. Usually, by the time diabetes is diagnosed most islet beta cells have stopped working. Dr Nelson wanted to know whether maternal cells had made their way to the pancreas, especially in the diabetic child, and, if so, what they had done there.

To her surprise, she found female cells (presumably from mother) in all four samples. Furthermore, these cells had transformed themselves into the insulin-producing islet beta cells. They also produced insulin, demonstrating that mothers do indeed interfere at a cellular level.
Very interesting. But, how much do you want to bet that this discovery will be used as a plotline on CSI?

via The Economist


al fin said...

This idea has already been used in the excellent novel "Next", by Harvard Medical School graduate, screenwriter, Movie and TV Producer, and many times Best Selling Author Michael Crichton.

No, I am not Michael Crichton in disguise, but I do share several characteristics with him.

Fat Knowledge said...


Thanks for the recommendation, I will have to check it out. I have read a lot of Crichton, but haven't gotten around to that one yet.

I wish Crichton would quit writing novels and start writing some non-fiction. I loved Travels, and find that I enjoy the science he writes about in his novels more than I enjoy the plot and characters he creates.

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