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Why Don't Mothers' Bodies Reject Their Fetus?

Date:
April 23, 2007
Source:
Journal of Clinical Investigation
Summary:
The immune system is designed to attack anything that is not the body's own tissues, such as pathogens and genetically nonidentical organ transplants, so why does the maternal immune system not attack a developing fetus?
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The immune system is designed to attack anything that is not the body's own tissues, such as pathogens and genetically nonidentical organ transplants, so why does the maternal immune system not attack a developing fetus? Several answers to this question are provided by a new study of mice from researchers at New York University School of Medicine.

In the study, in the May print issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Adrian Erlebacher and colleagues show that when maternal immune cells known as T cells interact with fetal cells they can't "see" proteins that only their fetus expresses. By contrast, the same maternal T cells were able to "see" the fetal proteins when other maternal immune cells began picking up the fetal proteins around mid-gestation.

However, this did not result in the T cells being primed to attack the fetus, rather, it induced the T cells to die. Surprisingly, even when the T cells were isolated from the female mice and exposed to the fetal proteins in vitro, under conditions that normally stimulate T cell activation, the maternal T cells did not become activated. This study therefore describes three reasons why maternal T cells do not attack a developing fetus and the authors suggest that immune-mediated early pregnancy loss might occur if maternal T cells become able to "see" fetal proteins when they interact with fetal cells.

Article:  Constraints in antigen presentation severely restrict T cell recognition of the allogeneic fetus


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The above story is based on materials provided by Journal of Clinical Investigation. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


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Journal of Clinical Investigation. "Why Don't Mothers' Bodies Reject Their Fetus?." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 23 April 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070421212932.htm>.
Journal of Clinical Investigation. (2007, April 23). Why Don't Mothers' Bodies Reject Their Fetus?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 28, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070421212932.htm
Journal of Clinical Investigation. "Why Don't Mothers' Bodies Reject Their Fetus?." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/04/070421212932.htm (accessed May 28, 2015).

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