You are part of your mum and she is part of you, literally!
There is a special bond between mothers and their children, but what if I told you that part of them literally lives within their children?
Some cells within your body are not yours! They were shared with you by your mother during pregnancy, and during that time you shared some cells with her too. There is an exchange of cells, which cross through the placenta, in both directions.
We are all chimeras … sort of
This phenomenon is called microchimerism: when an individual presents both its own cells and also a small number of cells that came from a genetically different organism.
The name is derived from the chimera, a mythological creature made of parts of a lioness, a goat and a serpent.
This exchange of cells can naturally occur during pregnancy and it was first described in 1979 by L. A. Herzenberg. The idea was hard to recognize, as often happens in the scientific community, but nowadays is an accepted phenomenon.
How was it discovered?
While working on a test aimed to help detecting pregnancy problems as early as possible, Herzenberg and colleagues discovered male fetal cells within blood samples of a group of mothers!
They used a technique called flow cytometry that allows the researchers to manipulate and sort cells one by one.
Depending on their particular role cells can be identified by looking for specific proteins present in their surface. Proteins are one of the essential building blocks of life, and their functions can be found in any cellular activity like movement or how cells react to the world outside them.
Some of this surface proteins are only shown by a certain group of cells, so if you can identify the proteins you can identify what kind of cell is.
This discovery was later confirmed by Dr. Diana Bianchi in 1996, using a similar approach to identify fetal cells from blood samples, but now working with women who had previously given birth to a boy and that were not pregnant during the study.
Surprisingly they were able to detect male fetal cells even in women who had given birth up to 27 years earlier!
A literal connection
If you have an older sibling then I have good (or terrible) news for you. As the cells a mother can receive from their first child can continue living within them for years, there is a chance in which some of those cells are actually shared from the mother to her second child. You might have a few of your older sibling’s cells within your body!
Touching their heart
As incredible as it might sound fetal cells can travel to the mother heart and be part of cardiac injury recovery in women who experienced heart failure during pregnancy.
I can bet you won’t see your mother and siblings as before. Turns out we all are chimeras.