How the Embryo Protects Its Mother –

Another Miracle of the Human Body

By Shlomo Maital     

   A small item in today’s Hebrew newspaper, Haaretz, caught my eye.  It is about another miracle of the human body — 

   Jordan McCarthy moved from Boston to Israel some months ago, to do graduate studies in biology at my university, Technion.  He is working with Dr. Yaron Fuchs.  (The tuition is more affordable than in the US, he reports).   Here is what Jordan recounts.

    “I’m researching stem cells during pregnancy.  We discovered that women who had a  heart attack when they were pregnant had a small advantage in recovery, and we wanted to understand why. It turns out that when a pregnant woman is injured, the embryo will send stem cells to the injured part of her body, which expedites the recovery. [Stem cells are human cells that are capable of becoming any type of specialized cell – muscle, heart, bone, brain, etc.]. 

    How did they discover this?

    “That was discovered, because a woman usually has two X (female) chromosomes, but if she is pregnant with a male, both an X chromosome and a Y (male) chromosome will be found [in cells]  in the injured area.  It’s insane!  I’m astounded that we discovered that.  We don’t know how they move to the injured part and we don’t know what brings them there, but we know that they’re there.”

    Jordan explains why stem cells are an exciting frontier in biological research.

     “Each of us has billions of stem cells right now. They’re in the skin, liver, brain.  It is a mistaken conception that stem cells are only in the embryo”. 

      The human body is truly miraculous – even though we humans mistreat it, often, in what we eat and drink and do (or don’t do).  And apparently, it can heal itself, if we just help it along a bit….. or at least, do no harm.