Mother’s Day: Always a Part of Us, Always a Part of Them

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms everywhere. There’s a million jokes about mothers never letting go of their babies, no matter how old they get. But it’s true … we never leave them, and they never leave us.

When you’re in the womb, cells from your growing body entered your mother’s bloodstream. Just before you were born, one out of a thousand cells in mom’s blood was yours. Many persist for decades, and your cells may help to attack inflammation or maybe even morph into new neurons in your mother’s brain. Often, too, those fetal cells may harm the mother, tripping the alarms of the immune system. We help, and we hurt.

Her cells also took refuge in your body, with as many as one in a hundred thousand of your cells not being yours. Scientists aren’t really sure what they do, if anything. Perhaps they help train our immune system, perhaps they can lead to autoimmune disease. Whatever the answer, she is in us.

Some of those maternal cells may have come from brothers and sisters that were present in her body, themselves deposited years before you were conceived. We may carry more than thoughts and memories of our families. Perhaps we carry their cells as well.

Near or far from your mom today, you’ll always be there with each other. 

For more: Check out Radiolab’s episode “Fetal Attraction”, or read more on Boing Boing.

( Krulwich Wonders…, art by Spec-ta-cles on Flickr)

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers, past, present, and future! Your mitochondrial DNA shall live on through us.