Stem cells from foetus could help mothers to recuperate from heart damage, suggests study conducted by Indian origin scientist.
The research, conducted by Hina Chaudhry of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City and team, took into consideration two kinds of mice: normal mice and genetically engineered mice, to generate green-fluorescing protein in all their body cells.
After mating the normal female mice with GFP-producing male mice, half the resulting foetuses produced the protein too, making it easier to identify any foetal tissue in mother.
The researchers then gave heart attacks to pregnant mice and killed them after two weeks to examine their heart.
The study revealed that there were some fluorescent cells in the mothers' damaged heart tissue, where they had accelerated repair by changing into new heart cells, including beating cardiomyocytes and blood vessel cells, New Scientist reported.
According to Chaudhry, the phenomenon is an evolutionary mechanism, which involves the foetus promoting its own survival by protecting its mother's heart.
The researchers have asserted that since it is quite feasible to obtain foetal stem cells from placenta and they are improbable to cause any immunological reactions, they could provide a new and potentially limitless source of stem cells for repairing damaged hearts.
"The study is the first to show conclusively that foetal cells contained in the placenta assist in cardiac tissue repair," said Jakub Tolar, director of stem-cell therapies at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
"To date the mainstream stem-cell community has not paid much attention to fetal stem cells in the mother," said Diana Bianchi at Tufts University in Boston.
"My hope is that this elegant paper will reawaken interest," Bianchi added.
The discovery may also elucidate why half the women who develop heart weakness during or just after pregnancy recover spontaneously.