Your mother has your stem cells in her brain? The connection between mother and child can be intense. Now a research team searching for the cause of Alzheimer’s disease may have upped the ante on that calculus by finding cells from children in the brains of mothers. In addition, more of the cells were associated with less Alzheimer’s disease!
The concept that cells from another person can take up residence in your body is called microchimerism. The Latin root for the word hearkens back to the myths of the Chimera, a two headed beast composed of the parts of more than one animal. While this all sounds weird, we’ve known for a while that cells from the baby can circulate through mom’s body during pregnancy. More recently, in animal models these cells have been found to have the properties of stem cells. For example, in one rat study, the fetal cells of the children living in the mother were mobilized during an experimentally induced heart attack to help heal the damage. I love the title of that paper, Fetal Cell Microchimerism in the Maternal Heart: Baby Gives Back! You have to love cheeky researchers!
The new research began with the concept that cells of sons in the brains of mothers, if they existed, would be a net negative toward the onset of Alzheimer ‘s (seeing that sons often give mothers grey hair and all…) Turns out they did find cells from son’s (with a Y chromosome) in the brains of mothers, however more of them seemed to protect against Alzheimer’s! Maybe my mother’s six son’s helped in some way after all of those sleepless nights? Other research has shown that those fetal stem cells actually turn into the nerve cells that make up the mother’s brain!
The upshot? The fact that research has found that your mother has your stem cells in her brain and that other research suggests that these cells can both heal the mother and turn into bits of the mother’s brain gives new meaning to Mother’s Day. These studies could change Hallmark forever!