Why the fetus — a ‘foreign body’ — does not attack its mother

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The immune system of a fetus developing in the womb faces a quandary: It has to prepare itself to attack dangerous pathogens after birth, by distinguishing its own cells from those of invaders. But until that time, it needs to avoid attacking the mother, whose cells are also “foreign.”

The new insights might help researchers better understand certain types of miscarriages and a deadly immune response in premature babies. It also could lead to new ways to keep the adult immune system in check when it gets out of balance.

…Consistent with other studies, [the researchers] found that as early as 13 weeks of development, the fetus was producing a range of immune system cells, including dendritic cells, which recognize invaders and signal other immune cells to attack.

The fetal cells’ ability to keep the immune response in check is quite potent, says [Jakob Michaelsson, an immunologist at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm], and harnessing that ability in adults could lead to new ways to treat autoimmune diseases, in which the body improperly attacks its own cells.

[Read the full study here (behind paywall)]

The GLP aggregated and excerpted this blog/article to reflect the diversity of news, opinion, and analysis. Read full, original post: A fetus needs to defend itself against foreign bodies—so how does it avoid attacking its mother?

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