Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

UCSF team finds new source of immune cells during pregnancy

Joseph M. McCune, MD, Ph.D. is a researcher at University of California – San Francisco.

From a December 16, 2010 Eureka news alert

UCSF researchers have shown for the first time that the human fetal immune system arises from an entirely different source than the adult immune system, and is more likely to tolerate than fight foreign substances in its environment.

The finding could lead to a better understanding of how newborns respond to both infections and vaccines, and may explain such conundrums as why many infants of HIV-positive mothers are not infected with the disease before birth, the researchers said.

It also could help scientists better understand how childhood allergies develop, as well as how to manage adult organ transplants, the researchers said. The findings are described in the Dec. 17 issue of Science and at www.sciencemag.org/content/330/6011/1695.full.html.

(Accompanying scientific commentary: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/330/6011/1635.full.html)

Until now, the fetal and infant immune system had been thought to be simply an immature form of the adult system, one that responds differently because of a lack of exposure to immune threats from the environment. The new research has unveiled an entirely different immune system in the fetus at mid-term that is derived from a completely different set of stem cells than the adult system.

“In the fetus, we found that there is an immune system whose job it is to teach the fetus to be tolerant of everything it sees, including its mother and its own organs,” said Joseph M. McCune, MD, PhD, a professor in the UCSF Division of Experimental Medicine who is a co-senior author on the paper. “After birth, a new immune system arises from a different stem cell that instead has the job of fighting everything foreign.”

The team previously had discovered that fetal immune systems are highly tolerant of cells foreign to their own bodies and hypothesized that this prevented fetuses from rejecting their mothers’ cells during pregnancy and from rejecting their own organs as they develop….

December 17, 2010 - Posted by | Health News Items | , , , , , ,

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