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J Gynecol Obstet Biol Reprod (Paris). 2011 Sep;40(5):387-98. doi: 10.1016/j.jgyn.2011.01.013. Epub 2011 Feb 26.

[Fetal microchimerism: self and non-self, finally who are we?].

[Article in French]

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  • 1FRE 3249 CNRS, cité scientifique, université Lille 1, Villeneuve d'Ascq, France.


For a long time, the conventional view was that the fetus and maternal vascular system are kept separate. In fact there is a two-way traffic of immune cells through the placenta and the transplacental passage of cells is in fact the norm. The fetal cells can persist in a wide range of woman's tissue following a pregnancy or an abortion and she becomes a chimera. Fetal cells have been found in the maternal circulation and they were shown to persist for almost three decades in humans, thus demonstrating long-term engraftment and survival capabilities. Microchimerism is a subject of much interest for a number of reasons. Studies of fetal microchimerism during pregnancy may offer explanations for complications of pregnancy, such as preeclampsia, as well as insights into the pathogenesis of autoimmune disease which usually ameliorates during pregnancy. The impact that the persistence of allogenic cells of fetal origin and the maternal immunological response to them has on the mother's health and whether it is detrimental or beneficial to the mother is still not clear. Although microchimerism has been implicated in some autoimmune diseases, fetal microchimerism is common in healthy individuals. On the beneficial side, it has been proposed that genetically disparate fetal microchimerism provides protection against some cancers, that fetal microchimerism can afford the mother new alleles of protection to some diseases she has not, that fetal microchimerism can enlarge the immunological repertoire of the mother improving her defense against aggressor. Fetal cells are often present at sites of maternal injury and may have an active role in the repair of maternal tissues.

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Masson SAS. All rights reserved.

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