Friday, November 25, 2011

When a pregnant mother is very sick, mouse fetuses send up stem cells to help | ZME Science

When a pregnant mother is very sick, mouse fetuses send up stem cells to help | ZME Science

Amidst of all the talks and protest against stem cell treatment and companies shutting down, nature has found its own way of treating diseases with stem cells. When a pregnant mouse mother, for example, has a heart attack, her fetus donates some of its own stem cells to help and cure.

Researchers started working on this experiment with two lines of mice: normal mice and mice genetically engineered to produce green fluorescent protein (or GFP) – which glows when exposed to blue light. They then mated normal female mice with GFP mice, meaning that the resulting fetuses also carried the GFP gene, thus their cells would glow in the dark. Twelve days later, almost two thirds into the pregnancy, scientists let loose their evil selves and gave half the mice heart attacks.

When they then examined their hearts, two weeks after the heart attacks, they found something absolutely stunning: lots of GFP tissue from the fetus was in their hearts; those who had heart attacks had eight times more fetus tissue than those who hadn’t. What is even more fascinating is that the GFP tissue actually differentiated into various types of heart tissue – something researchers are spending countless hours on, just to figure out how it works.

This is probably true for all mammals, including humans. Doctors often report that women with heart problems during pregnancy have better recovery rates than any other group of heart failure patients, and this study seems to explain why and how. Furthermore, this is not only true for heart problems, but other organs as well, including the brain here. When pregnant women have their organs damaged, fetal cells seem to show up wherever they are needed. Isn’t nature wonderful ?

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