"I feel my own conscious, rational self isn't calling the shots anymore," science writer Jena Pincott observed during her pregnancy. "I'm inhabited by urges and appetites that are not my own," she writes in her recent book, Do Chocolate Lovers Have Sweeter Babies?: The Surprising Science of Pregnancy. And so Pincott asked herself: "I'm not in control, so who is?"
It's the fetus that's in control, at least some of the time. The fetus manipulates its mother's body before it is born, and even after it is born. The phenomenon known michrochimerism involves fetal cells passing through the placenta and establishing cell lineages within the mother.
What does this mean? "When fetal cells are good, they are very, very good," Pincott explains in an introductory post to her new Big Think blog Paleo Parenting, which covers the science of raising children. Fetal cells have been observed to migrate to a part of a mother's body to repair injuries. "They may help protect mothers from some forms of cancer," Pincott adds. "They may cross the blood-brain barrier and potentially generate new neurons."
While experimental research in this field is still in its early stages, Pincott explores the awesome potential for harvesting fetal cells in this Big Think lesson.