Bond between mom, baby focus of stroke research

FARMINGTON, Conn. (WTNH) — The bond between mother and baby is a tough one to break.

And it turns out – a lot more than we could possibly imagine.

Studies showing pregnant women with pre-eclampsia – or high blood pressure – are at higher risk for stroke – and that women respond differently to treatment than men – led to this question, posed by Dr. Louise McCullough of the UConn Health Center:

“Why do women do so poorly after stroke? What is it that’s different about women and men?”

Women give birth and neurologist Dr. Louise McCullough says that led to a closer look at the link between mother and baby. McCullough is the principal investigator of a laboratory where researchers are scrutinizing the fetal cells – those transferred from baby to mother.

“They seem to survive in the mother for 50, 60 years,” she said.

Research assistant Anita Patel is monitoring that connection, using female mice who’ve had a stroke.

“We find that these babies cells look like they are differentiating into blood vessels,” Patel said. “That they are helping to recreate the blood vessels that were damaged in the mom’s brain.”

More research could support these initial findings that mothers could benefit from their children’s cells.

“We suspect because there are other models like cardiac injury that it seems to be beneficial so what we’re trying to do now is enhance the number of cells and see if there is a benefit,” said McCullough, adding that understanding these cells could lead to developing stem cell therapies.

But there are pros and cons to the fetal cell hypothesis. Other scientists theorize that fetal cells with the male ‘Y’ chromosome could induce auto immune diseases, which women are nearly three times more likely than men to develop.

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