Alzheimer's and giving birth to boys- two topics that generally aren't in the same sentence. However, I came across an interesting study published this past week that found a potential relationship between the two.
The online journal PLosOne recently published a study that was conducted by researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington. They were researching the phenomenon called fetal microchimerism- where DNA from the baby remains in the mother's body after birth.
Turns out, microchimerism (Mc) is quite common. Sixty-three percent of the women tested showed evidence of Mc, and the male DNA/cell material was found in multiple areas of the brain. Apparently, it can remain in the brain for decades, as the oldest woman who tested positive for male DNA was 94 years old.
What does this have to do with Alzheimer's? Glad you asked. The researchers looked not only at the presence of male DNA in the brains, but also at the presence or lack of Alzheimer's. They found that the women who tested positive for male DNA were less likely to have developed Alzheimer's disease over their lifetime.
So, do male babies ultimately protect their mothers' brains? Possibly. According to the study, the presence of male DNA in women is most likely caused by pregnancy with a male child, but could also come from other sources such as a male twin, an older male brother or via a non-irradiated blood transfusion. Also, the researchers noted that the study population was small, and the pregnancy histories weren't known, so more research was suggested.
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