Friday, August 26, 2011

Baby cells are forever...

Fetal cells remain in mothers for the rest of their lives

Vicki Thorn, founder of Project Rachel, spoke to thousands of young English-speaking pilgrims at the Love and Life catechetical site during World Youth Day. She shared insights about how the Catholic Church's theology of the body is consistent with recent scientific discoveries on human attraction and reproduction.

She said: "Mothers carry cells of every child they ever conceived the rest of their lives." This might be "old news" for some, but for the thousands of young pilgrims, it was probably the first time they had heard this amazing piece of information about the bond of a mother and her children (born and unborn). Even the cells of an unborn child (lost through miscarriage or abortion) will also remain in the mother.

An online search yields numerous articles regarding this finding, including a feature article on Dr. Diana Bianchi, Professor of Pediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynecology at Tufts University. Dr. Bianchi discovered fetal cells that remain in the mother's body through her research into fetal cell migration.

"A pregnancy lasts forever because every woman who has been pregnant carries these little souvenirs of the pregnancy for the rest of her life." - Dr. Diana Bianchi

Not only do baby cells remain in the mother, they may be there for a therapeutic purpose: "If the woman suffers a wound or develops a disease in an organ even decades after being pregnant, the fetal cells in her body migrate to the site of the injury, divide and change into the perfect cells needed to fix the problem. Fetal cells provide, in effect, a long-term life insurance policy for the mom." A mother nurturing the developing child inside her is only half the story, according to the research, and that the "umbilical cord is a two-way street" of nurturance.

Based on her findings, Bianchi believes in the therapeutic potential of fetal cells for a woman, her children and even unrelated individuals. It has been called the Good Fetal Cell Hypothesis. She is hopeful that these fetal cells, that could be extracted from maternal blood or tissue, are true stem cells, making the use of human embryos in therapy unnecessary.

Bianchi's findings have been met with skepticism and rejection. There are those who subscribe to an earlier explanation of the purpose of these cells, referred to as the "Bad Fetal Cell Hypothesis," that the prevalence of autoimmune diseases in women is due to fetal cells. But more and more scientific findings support the theory that the baby cells in the mother remain in her to "protect, defend and repair her for the rest of her life." It's a possibility that the researchers sometimes find "too beautiful to be true." Kirby Johnson of Tufts and Carol Artlet of Thomas Jefferson University discuss the two fetal cell theories in the 2006 NPR episode below:

"You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know." - Psalm 139:13-14

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