Why You Have More in Common With a Sphinx Than You Might Think

Did you know that you are, quite likely, multiple people? Or, at least, multiple humans. Recently, I stumbled upon this phenomenon called ‘microchimerism’ and wrote an article about it. Basically, during pregnancy, the fetus and its mother (or twins in the womb) can exchange cells which can stay in their respective bodies for decades. So, next to our microbiome, our virobiome, and who knows what else, we also have foreign human cells in our body. This is not a rare occurrence but rather happens in more than 50 percent of all pregnancies. Even more interesting, this can also be cross-sex, so mothers uptaking cells of their sons and vice versa.

In an enticing Danish prospective study, this phenomenon has even been linked to changed risks of breast cancer & colon cancer. Next to other indications that these cells might play a role in autoimmmune diseases, this hints at the hitherto understudied role of microchimerism in our physiology and in times of disease. I’m excited to see what more research can uncover and if we can somehow make use of this information for better cancer prevention or therapies!

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