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Many would argue that the mother-baby bond during pregnancy is the strongest human connection possible. During pregnancy, a mother is connected physically and psychologically to her child, and her baby depends on her for everything from nutrition, to blood flow to warmth and more. Of course, after a baby is born, mother and child remain close, but the relationship separates into that of two entirely separate individuals. Or does it? A fascinating new study shows that this close mother-baby connection may not end after a woman gives birth. The study findings, published in PLOS ONE, reveal that male cells have been found in the brains of women, sometimes decades after a woman had given birth. The researchers note that their study results indicate that fetal DNA and cells can cross the human blood-brain barrier (BBB) and end up residing in the mother’s brain at some point during pregnancy. The researchers found that male cells in the female brain appear frequently (in 63% of women subjects) and those cells are distributed in multiple brain regions. On top of this, these cells stay with the mother. The research showed that in some cases the cells persisted in the female brain across the human lifespan (the oldest female in whom male DNA was detected in the brain was 94 years-old).

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It’s not entirely clear why male cells end up in female brains, but the researchers on this study point out that the most likely source is to acquire these cells during a pregnancy with a male fetus. Women who have not given birth (cases of abortion or miscarriage) but were at some point pregnant with a male can also carry these cells with them. The researchers further theorize that beyond pregnancy, male cells could be acquired by a female from a recognized or vanished male twin, an older male sibling, or through non-irradiated blood transfusion. The consequences of having or not having male cells in the female brain is yet unclear. However, during the study, researchers did find that older women with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) were less likely to have these male cells in their brains, and some studies show an association between having these cells and a decreased risk of brain cancer. In theory, the positive health implications of sharing your son’s cells for life may be far reaching, though the researchers note that a lot more research is needed in order to fully understand the benefits or possible problems of the mother-son cell connection.

+ Male microchimerism in the human female brain

+ Source: Scientists Discover Children’s Cells Living in Mothers’ Brains