Teaching a Baby's Immune System

The human immune system needs to distinguish between foreign substances and the self. But how did it learn?

Medical researchers at the University of California, San Francisco have discovered that when a baby is developing in the womb, the mother's cells slip across the placenta, enter the fetus's body, and teach it to treat these cells as its own. 

In this way, the mother's cells help train the developing baby's cells to respond to outside threats but not overreact to harmless stimuli or the body's own tissues. 

The researchers demonstrated that the cells from the mother directly cause fetal tissue to produce more regulatory T cells, a particular type of immune cell.  "We found a specific mechanism for how the mother's cells induce the fetal immune system to be more tolerant," said [Jeff] Mold, who was the first author of the paper, which appeared in Science on Dec. 5.

The discovery could point the way to more successful transplants.

Link - via 3quarksdaily

From the Upcoming ueue, submitted by Marilyn Terrell.

Newest 4
Newest 4 Comments

What a shame someone had to hijack the science for their own mixed up beliefs.

This research is fascinating to me as my sister was diagnosed with MS last year. This research may connect to her condition in that if somehow the mothers immune system under-functions during pregnancy then it is possible this "training" mechanism does not occur correctly. The immune system then may retain the T cells, which should have been deleted out by the immune mechanism due to identification of self, which instead go on to cause the autoimmune condition of MS. The same could potentially apply to other autoimmune conditions.

Great research
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
I thank you with ALL my heart for having the intelligence and courage to use the words, "baby" and "mother," when speaking about the pre-birth experience. The two separate human persons are indeed a "baby" and a "mother" (already), right from the moment that a sperm finishes fertilizing an ovum. That is why it is so important for each and every one of us to realize that every abortion is a murder -- an unspeakable crime against an innocent, defenseless child -- and the law ought to reflect that fact. Abortion is never justifiable, and abortionists need to be imprisoned.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Also from reading the original paper in Science, we can see that perhaps the most important part of this process is that the baby's immune system learns to recognize the mothers as "self" so the baby's immune system doesn't attack the mother.
There is also a similar, but less defined mechanism where the mothers immune system learns to recognize (or ignore) the baby, again so as not to attack it.

Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Login to comment.

Email This Post to a Friend
"Teaching a Baby's Immune System"

Separate multiple emails with a comma. Limit 5.


Success! Your email has been sent!

close window

This website uses cookies.

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using this website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

I agree
Learn More