In utero cell transfer between porcine littermates

Andrea McConico, Kim Butters, Karen Lien, Bruce Knudsen, Xiaosheng Wu, Jeffrey L. Platt, Brenda M. Ogle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Trafficking of cells between mother and fetus during the course of normal pregnancy is well documented. Similarly, cells are known to travel between twins that share either a placenta (i.e. monozygotic) or associated chorion (i.e. monochorionic). Transferred cells are thought to be channelled via the vessels of the placenta or vascular connections established via the chorion and the long-term presence of these cells (i.e. microchimerism) can have important consequences for immune system function and reparative capacity of the host. Whether cells can be transferred between twins with separate placentas and separate chorions (i.e. no vascular connections between placentas) has not been investigated nor have the biological consequences of such a transfer. In the present study, we tested the possibility of this type of cell transfer by injecting human cord blood-derived cells into a portion of the littermates of swine and probing for human cells in the blood and tissues of unmanipulated littermates. Human cells were detected in the blood of 78% of unmanipulated littermates. Human cells were also detected in various tissues of the unmanipulated littermates, including kidney (56%), spleen (33%), thymus (11%) and heart (22%). Human cells were maintained in the blood until the piglets were sacrificed (8 months after birth), suggesting the establishment of long-term microchimerism. Our findings show that the transfer of cells between fetuses with separate placentas and separate chorions is significant and thus such twins may be subject to the same consequences of microchimerism as monozygotic or monochorionic counterparts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)297-302
Number of pages6
JournalReproduction, Fertility and Development
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2011


  • cord blood
  • maternofetal transfer
  • microchimerism
  • stem cells
  • tolerance


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