A part of me, literally

May 12, 2012

In honour of mother’s day, here is a snippet I found both interesting and touching.

According to this Radiolab podcast* when someone becomes pregnant and has a fetus growing inside (usually a) her, that fetus sheds cells.

Typically what happens in situations where a body has foreign cells in it, the body will attack these strange cells as they are usually seen as a threat.

But in this case, perhaps logically, the mother’s body doesn’t attack the fetal cells. These cells can live on in the mothers body for decades.

This is apparently true of any fetus, even those terminated or miscarried. Each fetus leaves behind a physical trace of itself.

So the fetuses we carry are literally, part of our lives for-almost-ever. This  may feel tragic to some, perhaps vaguely creepy and even unwanted.

Personally I find it lovely to think that my kids, even though they are getting older and more independent everyday, will remain part of my being for decades. Just like I have remained part of my own mother’s being for-almost-ever. I wonder, how many cells these would add up to. A spoonful? A whole finger? Enough to fill a shoe?

Perhaps even more mindblowingly these cells, in many cases end up acting as support cells in the mothers body. They often show up at sites of injury or unwellness and work hard to help heal the mother. Like stem cells, they can convert to whatever cell the mother needs and assist the mother’s body shed disease and heal faster.

And on my more cynical days, after I’ve washed my fourth load of laundry, I think, well… it’s the least they could do.

Happy mother’s day everyone.

*If you don’t already listen to Radiolab, you should. It’s amazing. Free blissful intelligent and inspiring stories about science and curiosity. Stayed tuned for my analysis of gender dynamics in their shows.


2 Responses to “A part of me, literally”

  1. Thanks for this truly fascinating post = )

  2. Tammy said

    I read somewhere, at some point, (which as a reference is no good whatsoever I realise!) that they had found male DNA in the bone marrow of women with sons, and that this helped protect them against osteoporosis.

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