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Mother's Immune System May Block Fetal Treatments for Blood Diseases
Date:8/17/2009

er first transplanting a small number of healthy cells in an early-stage fetus to establish tolerance, a second dose of transplanted cells later in gestation would proliferate, and treat the blood disorder before birth. Researchers use hematopoietic cells -- stem cells that that develop into blood cells -- in this technique, in utero hematopoietic cell transplantation (IUHCT).

However, over the years, Flake's team and other research groups found that IUHCT studies in animal models yielded inconsistent results, ranging from no tolerance to transplants to full tolerance and every degree of tolerance in between. Contrary to the concept of fetal tolerance, an immune barrier seemed to be acting against transplanted cells.

The current study, done in mice, solves the puzzle of an apparent immune barrier. Newborn mice (pups) that received cell transplants in utero were divided into two groups. Mice nursed by their biological mothers lost the transplanted donor cells, while mice nursed by foster mothers retained those donor cells.

The mothers whose fetuses received the donor cells transplants had developed antibodies against those cells, and subsequently transmitted those antibodies to their pups through breast milk. "Those antibodies in the breast milk triggered rejection of the transplanted blood cells in the pups," said Flake. "But in the absence of a maternal immune response, we confirmed that immune tolerance does occur in the early-gestation fetus 100 percent of the time."

Of course, mouse biology is not the same as human biology, and Flake added, "Mouse time is not the same as human time." Because mice have such a brief gestational period, the mother's immune response didn't develop until after the birth of her pups, and was therefore transferred by breastfeeding. In large animals and humans, said Flake, the more likely route of maternal-to-fetal transmission would be through the placenta la
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SOURCE The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
Copyright©2009 PR Newswire.
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