Recent results from J Lee Nelson and colleagues (Sci Am. 2008 Feb;298(2):64-71; available as full text through Google) show that cells from the mother were found in a person aged 46. Logically, these cells should be stem cells, as any other cells would die in such a long period of time. So, what stem cells could be transferred from mother to fetus? Why doesn't the immune system reject those cells?

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    $\begingroup$ Please add a full reference and link to the paper. $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 6, 2013 at 10:44
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    $\begingroup$ They could also be immune system memory cells, as they are (by necessity) extremely long-lived $\endgroup$
    – MattDMo
    Commented Jun 6, 2013 at 13:38
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, a link to the reference would be most helpful. In the meantime, I found some abstract from a conference where they apparently presented this work here: Chimeric maternal cells as T lymphocyte targets in pediatric SLE $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 6, 2013 at 15:21
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    $\begingroup$ Please don't include articles directly into your posts, firstly it's huge and makes your question pretty much impossible to read but also it's very very close to plagiarism and copyright circumvention. Usually linking to a pubmed index or the journal itself will suffice along with fairly quoting any relevant sections. $\endgroup$
    – Rory M
    Commented Jun 6, 2013 at 18:53
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    $\begingroup$ There's a lot more out there on mother-child cell exchange now - e.g. a nice plain-English explanation of microchimeras from the baby in the mother here. Anyone feel like having a stab at answering this one? $\endgroup$
    – arboviral
    Commented Feb 21, 2018 at 16:19

1 Answer 1


Since the maternal cells can be found in a number of tissues including

In second trimester fetuses the thymus, lung, heart, pancreas, liver, spleen, kidney, adrenal gland, ovary, testis and brain had maternal Mc (microchimerism)

it's clear that these are stem or stem like cells that are being incorporated into fetal tissue.

Since these cells arrive while the immune system is developing, they are considered as self and not foreign. But a breakdown of that immune tolerance is thought to be involved in a number of autoimmune diseases, especially systemic sclerosis which resembles a host vs graft disease where the patient's immune system attacks tissues holding the maternal cells.



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