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Medical News & Perspectives
February 28, 2007

Role of Maternal Cells in Diabetes Probed

JAMA. 2007;297(8):796. doi:10.1001/jama.297.8.796

Some cells passed from mother to child during pregnancy can differentiate into pancreatic islet beta cells and may play a role in aiding the production of insulin in children with type 1 diabetes, according to a multinational team of researchers from the United States, France, and the United Kingdom (Nelson JL et al. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. doi:10.1073/pnas.0606169104 [published online ahead of print January 23, 2007]).

Previous research had documented that maternal cells are transmitted from mother to fetus and that they persist (Artlett CM et al. Lancet. 2000;356:2155-2156; Reed AM et al. Lancet. 2000;356:2156-2157). But the investigators who made the new discovery that the maternal cells differentiate into islet cells say the finding suggests that the maternal microchimeric cells in children with diabetes may play a beneficial role that might be exploited in future treatments for the disease.