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Endocr Pathol. 2009 Spring;20(1):11-6. doi: 10.1007/s12022-009-9064-4.

Microchimerism in endocrine pathology.

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Department of Pathology, Tufts Medical Center, Boston, MA, USA.


Chimerism in an individual refers to the coexistence of cells arising from two distinct organisms. It can arise iatrogenically via transplant or blood transfusion, and physiologically via twin to twin transfer, or from trafficking between mother and fetus during pregnancy. Many of the diseases associated with microchimerism affect the endocrine system (e.g., autoimmune thyroid disease and diabetes mellitus type 1). Microchimerism is relevant to endocrine pathology because (a) it is associated with pregnancy, a condition of complex endocrine physiology; (b) materno-fetal and feto-maternal cellular migration must involve the placenta, itself an endocrine organ; and (c) in some species, chimerism results in states of intersexuality, a condition intimately involved with endocrine physiology. Studies of feto-maternal microchimerism in the thyroid have documented the presence of fetal cells in association with Hashimoto thyroiditis, Graves' disease, thyroid adenoma, and papillary thyroid carcinoma. Studies of materno-fetal microchimerism have documented the presence of maternal cells in juvenile diabetes and other pediatric conditions. Microchimerism plays a potential role in the repair of diseased thyroid and pancreatic tissues.

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