Just how deep is the bond between a mum and her baby?
The latest ‘buzz word’ in science circles is Michrochimerism, a fairly recent term used to describe the lifelong physical interconnectedness between mum and her child.
We have known for a long time that a profound physical and psychological bond is shared between a mum and her unborn baby. During pregnancy the mother is the vital source of life for her developing baby, supplying warmth and sustenance, while her heartbeat is a constant soothing rhythm. It has also been known that the lifelong bond between mum and her unborn baby can be reinforced by using hypnosis for a more calm birth.
However, in an exciting new development scientists have recently uncovered a physical connection between mother and child, that is even deeper than previously thought. Scientists have discovered children’s cells ‘living’ inside mother’s brains.
We are led to think our bodies belong to our unique self and the idea that we carry cells from our children in our bodies may seem very strange.
This unique process of women retaining their children’s cells, apparently starts with the exchange of cells across the placenta during pregnancy; phenomena now known as Microchimerism. There is new evidence that some cells are also transferred from mum to baby in breastfeeding.
Scientist say: “In addition to exchange between mother and unborn baby, there may be exchange of cells between twins in utero, there is also the possibility that cells from an older sibling residing in the mother find their way back across the placenta to the next sibling during pregnancy and gestation. Apparently, women may have ‘microchimeric’ collection of cells both from their mother as well as their child”. It is hard to believe, cells from grandmother and infant are simultaneously living within the mother.
These ‘microchimeric’ cells may also influence the immune system. During pregnancy the foetal microchimeric cells can be recognised by the mother’s immune system as belonging to the mother (since the foetus is genetically half identical to the mother), but can also be partly foreign, due to the father’s genetic contribution. This may “prime” the immune system to be alert for cells that are similar to the self, but with some genetic differences.
Scientist are still researching and trying to understand this phenomena, asking; “What is it that foetal microchimeric cells do in the mother’s body?” It is still unclear, although, there are some intriguing new possibilities emerging. For example, foetal microchimeric cells are similar to stem cells, in that they are able to become a variety of different organ tissues, aiding in tissue repair.
One research group investigated this possibility and observed the activity of foetal microchimeric cells in a mother ‘rat’. To their surprise they discovered that after the maternal heart was injured, the foetal cells migrated to the maternal heart and converged into heart cells, helping to repair the damage. In other animal studies, microchimeric cells were found in maternal brains, where they became nerve cells; suggesting they might be integrated in the brain.
We are discovering that the same is quite true of such cells in the human brain.