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Fetal Cells Protect May Protect Mom From Disease

A discovery by German scientist Georg Schmorl proved that mothers can carry cells from their babies even after birth. While scientists continue to study why the cells continue to thrive in the mother's body, they also suggest that each person's body may contain cells from older siblings, grandparents and other relatives as well.

According to an article on NPR, Dr. J. Lee Nelson, a fetal medicine expert at the University of Washington in Seattle, explained that a fetus releases fetal material into the mother's blood circulation and internal organs through the placenta. This fetal material contains DNA from the fetus, tiny pieces of the placenta and potent fetal cells.

"They can go to the liver and become liver cells, or go into the heart and become muscle cells," Nelson says. Fetal cells can even cross the blood-brain barrier and turn into neurons.

Initially linked to destructive health conditions such as preeclampsia and autoimmune diseases, scientists have found fetal cells in scar tissues left by C-sections. These cells produce collagen which helps the mother recover after birth by repairing wounds.

Fetal cells also reduce the risk of rheumatoid arthritis and are suspected to protect against breast cancer.

"Being an optimist, I think the benefits will outweigh the times when they're problematical," Nelson says. "So it's actually a beautiful cooperation."

This cooperation isn't one-sided—cells from the mom also cross the placenta and enter the fetal body, which means you've got your mom's cells inside you.

Since your mom had cells in her body from any other pregnancies and cells from her mom, that means you likely have cells from your older siblings, from your grandmother and maybe even your great-grandmother!

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