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Think You're a Woman? You May be Part Male!

Male DNA is commonly found in the brains of women, most likely derived from prior pregnancy with a male fetus. While the medical implications of male DNA and male cells in the brain are unknown, the harboring of genetic material and cells that were exchanged between fetus and mother during pregnancy has been linked to autoimmune diseases and cancer, sometimes for better and other times for worse.

Researcher William F. N. Chan says that his findings support the likelihood that fetal cells frequently cross the human blood-brain barrier and that what scientists call "microchimerism" in the brain is relatively common.

When scientists examined brain autopsy specimens from 59 women who had died between the ages of 32 and 101, male microchimerism was detected in 63% percent of them. The oldest female in whom male fetal DNA was detected in the brain was 94.

Twenty six of the women had no neurological disease and 33 had Alzheimer's disease, but the male DNA can't be blamed: The brains of women with Alzheimer's had a somewhat LOWER prevalence of male microchimerism, and it appeared in lower concentrations in regions of the brain most affected by the disease.

Maybe women all need a little male in them? In some conditions, such as breast cancer, cells of fetal origin are thought to confer protection; in others, such as colon cancer, they have been associated with increased risk.

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