Memes and the scientific community

Ever had a question on the usefulness of memes other than as a source of entertainment?

How about their use by the scientific community to be more people friendly in communicating our research?

Well this particular research was benefitted from the same.

Memes usually do not have a very strong scientific background. Sometimes a meme can even be misleading but this one lead to a whole new research topic coming to light.


In this case, a popular science meme suggests that a fetus can send its own stem cells to its mother to repair damaged organs. This was found to be mostly accurate (except for the scientific wordings).

This is referred to as Fetomaternal Microchimerism.

In a study [1], researchers tagged mice with a fluorescent protein that allowed them to trace the flow of the fetus’s stem cells from the mother’s placenta into its heart while they induced cardiac injury to the mother. This resulted in fetal stem cells directly targeting the damaged cardiac cells and fully integrating themselves into the mother’s heart. This could be a way in which the fetus enhances its own survival by ensuring maternal fitness.

As the cells are easy to obtain from the placenta and unlikely to cause immunological reactions, this could serve as an unlimited source of stem cells for repairing damaged organs.

Yet another research [2] found that in humans, genetically distinct cells from a male fetus persisted in the mother’s body for as long as 27 years after birth. Thus the fetal cells are persistent in the mother for decades after pregnancy without any apparent rejection. Fetal microchimeric cells engraft themselves in maternal bone marrow and are able to migrate through the circulatory system to reach specific injured tissues post detecting precise signals. Thus the effects and the healing properties are long lasting in the mammalian body.

It is long known that fetal cells can act as stem cells and develop into epithelial cells, specialized heart cells, liver cells and so forth. They are also known to be very dynamic and play a huge role in the maternal body. Scientific literature has records of these cells even migrating to the brain and differentiating into neurons.

This study has immense implications on the immune system in women such as autoimmunity and tolerance to transplants.


P.S: I am not a person who should be writing biology stuff. So apologies for any error that may have inadvertently crept in.


  1. Fetal Cells Traffic to Injured Maternal Myocardium and Undergo Cardiac Differentiation Rina J. Kara, Paola Bolli, Ioannis Karakikes, Iwao Matsunaga, Joseph Tripodi, Omar Tanweer, Perry Altman, Neil S. Shachter, Austin Nakano, Vesna Najfeld, Hina W. Chaudhry.
  2. Male fetal progenitor cells persist in maternal blood for as long as 27 years postpartum. D W BianchiG K ZickwolfG J WeilS Sylvester, and M A DeMaria


Further reading:


Ruchir Gupta

IISER Bhopal

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