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Why Mother’s Immune System Does Not Reject Developing Fetus as Foreign Tissue

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ScienceDaily (June 7, 2012) — Researchers at NYU School of Medicine have made an important discovery that partially answers the long-standing question of why a mother’s immune system does not reject a developing fetus as foreign tissue.

“Our manuscript addresses a fundamental question in the fields of transplantation immunology and reproductive biology, namely, how do the fetus and placenta, which express antigens that are disparate from the mother, avoid being rejected by the maternal immune system during pregnancy?” explained lead investigator Adrian Erlebacher, MD, PhD, associate professor of pathology and a member of the NYU Cancer Institute at NYU Langone Medical Center. “What we found was completely unexpected at every level.”

The researchers discovered that embryo implantation sets off a process that ultimately turns off a key pathway required for the immune system to attack foreign bodies. As a result, immune cells are never recruited to the site of implantation and therefore cannot harm the developing fetus.

The study, funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the American Cancer Society, appears in the June 8 issue of Science.

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Posted by on June 10, 2012. Filed under Research,Science. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

2 Responses to Why Mother’s Immune System Does Not Reject Developing Fetus as Foreign Tissue

  1. Muhammad Zafrullah

    June 12, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    ضرب لنا مثلا و نسی خلقہ
    Several thoughts raced through my mind when I read the article. One of them was the above phrase from the Holy Quran (from the chapter entitled Yaseen). Let me list the others one by one. But let me warn you I have no connection, whatsoever, with medicine. Of course I will be grateful if I am corrected.
    (1) From fertilization of egg to delivery pains it is a well-coordinated orchestra of events. So bow to the Creator! (In fact there’s more. Infant mammals are born with immunity that covers them for a short period of time, until their own immune systems are able to cope on their own.)
    (2) I had a kidney transplant in 1996. When the doctors told me about the importance of immuno-suppressants the first question that I asked was “How do the parasites manage to survive in a host body?” Being always ready to ask a “stupid” question, I put my question to the doctor who was explaining these things to me. The answer was “They mimic the host’s DNA”. I am still not satisfied. I feel that parasites appear to provide or provide some kind of service.
    (3) When I was discharged from the hospital I came back to MTA. (I was “volunteering” my time at MTA- USA when the call for the operation came.) The next day a paramedic came to give me an injection. Inquisitive as always, I asked, “What purpose would it serve?” I was told that it would cut the antennae of the WBCs whose job it was to search and destroy all foreign objects. To my “After that?” he told me that after that the immune suppressants will keep the immune system asleep. So, perhaps, the new research could open the door to a way of keeping the immune system robust in such a way that it will be ignoring or perhaps protecting the transplant. A lot of wishful thinking, but, well, I will not be here to use it if and when such a treatment develops.
    (4) A female Kangaroo’s body structure due, perhaps, to its use of its hind legs does not allow a fully developed infant to be born. So it gives birth to a tiny miracle that finds its way to the pouch where the tiny piece of naked flesh fuses itself to the nipple and essentially completes its period of “gestation” there. Some would blame it on evolution, but I see a program being executed; same as in other mammals with sufficiently large and flexible birthing passage.
    Finally, I have a feeling that the clue will be in, as pointed out by some, the placenta, the membrane that contains the fetus and in the system of supply of nutrition during gestation, the membrane in the umbilical cord that keeps the “inside” of the mother separated from the fetus, while filtering in the nutrients. I put inside between quotes because in my opinion the process of ovulation is a process of expulsion of the egg which withers and gets flushed out or absorbed when its term is completed without fertilization. So the fetus develops essentially outside the mother’s body from the moment of fertilization even when the fertilized egg attaches itself to the wall of the uterus.

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