By Dave Andrusko
Editor’s note. This first ran in January 2012. We’re reprinting it today because it dovetails nicely with another story that we are posting today that discusses how the cells that an unborn baby leaves behind in her/his mother’s blood may actually help to heal injuries.
Pro-lifers hearing National Public Radio’s Morning Edition Monday had to be smiling when Science editor, Robert Krulwich, revealed a little-known bond between a mother and her child.
The report examined the increasing evidence that “when a woman has a baby, she gets not just a son or daughter, [but] an army of protective cells–gifts from her children that will stay inside her and defend her for the rest of her life.”
Krulwich begins his interview with Dr. Kirby Johnson, of Tufts University, by doing a little myth-busting about the placenta, formerly considered “an impenetrable barrier [in which the] mommy cells stay on the mommy side and nature keeps them separate.”
Rather, Johnson discusses how researchers found, “in a teaspoon of an ordinary pregnant woman’s blood… dozens, perhaps even hundreds of cells… from the baby.” (The scientific name for the phenomenon is fetomaternal microchimerism.)
Researchers were surprised that the ‘baby’ cells aren’t attacked by the ‘mom’s’ immunity system. (The references throughout the NPR interview to the unborn child as a baby, and to the pregnant female as mom, are refreshing.)
Chimed in Carol Artlett, a researcher at Philadelphia’s Thomas Jefferson University, “even if a woman has a miscarriage or an abortion, even if there is no baby, the cells of an unborn child will stay in the mother for decades.” Artlett adds, “Yeah, these cells last essentially forever.”
But it’s what these cells do that is remarkable. “There’s a lot of evidence now starting to come out that these cells may actually be repairing tissue,” according to Artlett.
One case study the interview discusses concerns a Boston woman with hepatitis, with a maternal history of five pregnancies, including one living child, two miscarriages and two abortions. Her liver biopsy showed not just a few stray fetal cells, but hundreds at work ‘repairing’ her liver. Months later, she was found completely healthy, with no signs of further liver damage!
Krulwich interjects the possible alternate hypothesis–that fetal cells can harm the mother–but Johnson responds, “I can’t recall a single study that’s been truly reproduced to verify the bad fetal cell hypothesis.”
What is actually happening is that lab studies done on mother mice with diseases (ovarian, endometrial and cervical cancers) “over and over and over and over” suggest, “that fetal cells regularly rush to the places where they’re needed in the mom,” according to Krulwich.
Wow! Heady stuff that there IS an inseparable, healthy, and providential maternal-infant bond at the most basic biological level.