Fact Check: Study Did NOT Find Women Store DNA From Every Man They've Ever Made Love With -- Findings Are Misrepresented

Fact Check

  • by: Sarah Thompson
Fact Check: Study Did NOT Find Women Store DNA From Every Man They've Ever Made Love With -- Findings Are Misrepresented Not A Bank

Did a study by the University of Seattle and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center discover that women harvest and store in their brain DNA from every man they've ever made love with? No, that's not true: The headline on an article grossly misrepresents the findings from a study that did find male DNA (a phenomenon called microchimerism) in 63 percent of the female subjects' autopsied brain tissue specimens. But, the researchers did not suggest that the origin of this male DNA found in female brain tissue was "harvested" or "stored" from every past lover.

The article (archived here) was published by Neon Nettle on May 28, 2018 under the title "Women Store DNA From Every Man They've Ever Made Love With, Study Finds". It opened:

Scientists discover that women harvest all male DNA
Women harvest the DNA of every man they've ever made love with, for life

Scientists have discovered that women retain and store, for life, the DNA of every man they've ever had sexual intercourse with.
This bombshell discovery has been unearthed by the University of Seattle and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center during a brand-new study.
The scientific study actually discovered the surprising information by accident whilst conducting other research.

This is how the post appeared at the time of writing:
(Image source: Neonnettle.com screenshot taken on Tue Oct 03 19:23:58 2023 UTC)

Suspected sources of the male DNA described in the study were associated with gestation -- through a woman's pregnancy with a male child or her mother's pregnancy with an older brother, as well as a woman having a male twin. The only non-gestational source suggested by these researchers was through a transfusion of non-irradiated blood .

The article making the false claim was originally published on May 3, 2018, by the defunct website Woked.co (archived here). Neon Nettle credited Woked.co in their copycat article without indicating that the entire article was copied. The articles both linked to the September 26, 2012, study (archived here) published in PLOS ONE titled, "Male Microchimerism in the Human Female Brain." The study was approved by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. The specimens used in the study came from the Department of Pathology at the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington, and the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center in Belmont, Massachusetts.

This study was conducted on brain tissue from 59 deceased women and found 63 percent harbored male microchimerism in the brain. Scientific understanding of human microchimerism is still growing. The Britannica entry for chimera explains:

Human microchimeras are produced when fetal stem cells or maternal cells cross the placenta (fetal-maternal microchimerism) or following blood transfusion (transfusion-associated microchimerism) or organ transplantation. The physiological significance of microchimerism is poorly understood.

In the discussion portion of the article, the researchers explain their understanding of the origin of the male DNA found in the female brain tissue. They do not suggest that this DNA is a genetic catalog of all of the woman's past sexual partners. The researchers offer several scenarios and with the exception of a blood transfusion, they all involve a woman who was pregnant with a male child:

The most likely source of male Mc in female brain is acquisition of fetal Mc from pregnancy with a male fetus. In women without sons, male DNA can also be acquired from an abortion or a miscarriage [22], [23], [38]-[40]. The pregnancy history was unknown for all but a few subjects in the current studies, thus male Mc in female brain could not be evaluated according to specific prior pregnancy history. In addition to prior pregnancies, male Mc could be acquired by a female from a recognized or vanished male twin [41]-[43], an older male sibling, or through non-irradiated blood transfusion [44].

In the middle of the Woked.co article the presentation of information is incomplete. While suggesting that the scientists of the aforementioned study are involved in a cover-up, Woked introduces a quote from an entirely different study without clarifying where it came from. The quoted second study, was conducted years earlier and was published in The American Journal of Medicine in August 2005. It had nothing to do with brain tissue. The quote from that uncredited study (archived here) that was included in the Woked article read:

Male microchimerism was not infrequent in women without sons. Besides known pregnancies, other possible sources of male microchimerism include unrecognized spontaneous abortion, vanished male twin, an older brother transferred by the maternal circulation, or sexual intercourse.

This quote from 2005 was blended with the focus of the brain tissue study from 2012 to craft an outlandish and untrue headline.

Neon Nettle is a website that has published multiple false claims which have been debunked by Lead Stories (here).

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  Sarah Thompson

Sarah Thompson lives with her family and pets on a small farm in Indiana. She founded a Facebook page and a blog called “Exploiting the Niche” in 2017 to help others learn about manipulative tactics and avoid scams on social media. Since then she has collaborated with journalists in the USA, Canada and Australia and since December 2019 she works as a Social Media Authenticity Analyst at Lead Stories.


Read more about or contact Sarah Thompson

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