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Fetal cells enter maternal blood during pregnancy and persist in women with autoimmune disease. The frequency of subsequent fetomaternal microchimerism in healthy women and its cell type is unknown. To test the hypothesis that fetal mesenchymal stem cells persist in maternal organs, we studied female bone marrow and ribs. Male cells were identified by XY fluorescence in-situ hybridisation in marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells and in rib sections from all women with male pregnancies, but not in controls (9/9 vs 0/5, p=0.0005). We conclude that fetal stem cells transferred into maternal blood engraft in marrow, where they remain throughout life. This finding has implications for normal pregnancy, for obstetric complications that increase fetomaternal trafficking, and for graft survival after transplantation.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





179 - 182


Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Bone Marrow Cells, Bone and Bones, Chimera, Chromosomes, Human, X, Chromosomes, Human, Y, Female, Fetus, Humans, In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence, Male, Maternal-Fetal Exchange, Mesoderm, Middle Aged, Pregnancy, Ribs, Stem Cells, Time Factors