During pregnancy and breastfeeding, some cells from the mother migrate to the child and can persist for decades after the baby is born.
Previous studies have shown that these cells prevent the maternal and fetal immune systems from attacking each other during gestation, but
However, the role of these cells after the birth of the offspring is unclear.
A recent study published in Biology Open shows that cells from the mothers of mice may help regulate the immune system of the pups and prevent it from becoming overactive.
The researchers introduced the diphtheria toxin receptor gene into the mothers and injected the newborn mice with diphtheria toxin once a day after they gave birth to induce apoptosis of the maternal cells in their bodies, while preventing the pups from acquiring new maternal cells through lactation.
After two weeks, scientists were asked to observe the type and proportion of immune cells activated in the spleens of the offspring mice and compare them to mice that normally carried maternal cells.
The results found that activation of immune cells such as T cells and natural killer cells (NK cells) was increased in the spleens of mice whose maternal cells were depleted.
The researchers say that young mice are exposed to a large number of new antigens and potential allergens after birth and need to avoid an overactive immune system.
And maternal cells may be able to prevent the pups’ immune systems from overreacting to new antigens and attacking their own cells.
The study may provide clues to autoimmune diseases that involve conflicts between maternal and pup cells.