Son’s DNA Ends Up In Mom’s Brain, Study Finds

By Amir Khan on September 27, 2012 12:38 PM EDT

A mother may say she always has her son on her mind, but according to a new study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, that's truer than anyone ever thought. Researchers found that the cells from a fetus migrates into the mother's brain and stay there once the child is born.

The phenomenon was first discovered in mice, and now researchers have found that the same is true in humans. While they are unsure what purpose or benefits the process, known as microchimerism, has, they said the findings shed more lights on what happens during pregnancy.

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"The most important implication of our findings is the potential for both positive and negative consequences of microchimerism in the brain for a number of different diseases that affect the brain, including degenerative diseases and cancer," William Chan, lead researcher and an immunologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, told LiveScience.

Researchers looked at the brains of 59 women who had died between the ages of 32 and 101. Two-thirds of the women were found with traces of the Y-chromosome in their brain, and researchers were surprised to find that the cells survived for a long time in the brain. A 91 year old woman was found with male DNA in her brain.

While researchers said they are unsure what role, if any, the process plays, they said it's possible that the cells play a role in Alzheimer's disease.

"At present, it is unknown whether microchimerism in the brain is good or bad for health," Chan said. "We think it is likely that microchimerism imparts benefit in some, but in other situations may contribute to a disease process. Further studies are required."

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