Thursday, May 15, 2008

Twin within a Twin

Here's a news item with no redeeming political significance - just something that irresistibly drew my amazed, not-quite-horrified attention. (I do have a pretty thick skin about such things, having spent hundreds of hours of my life with old German gynecology books, which loved the lurid and weird, especially with illustrations to match.)

First off, the little girl involved is going to be fine, otherwise I wouldn't be rubbernecking. Here's what the AP reported (via the Columbus Dispatch):
A 9-year-old girl who went to hospital in central Greece suffering from stomach pains was found to be carrying her embryonic twin, doctors said Thursday.

Doctors at Larissa General Hospital examined the girl and surgically removed a growth they later discovered was an embryo more than two inches long. ...

Andreas Markou, head of the hospital's pediatric department, said the embryo was a formed fetus with a head, hair and eyes, but no brain or umbilical cord.

Markou said cases where one of a set of twins absorbs the other in the womb occurs in one of 500,000 live births.
The sheer weirdness of this is right up there with chimeras. Except that chimeras aren't exactly unusual; in recent years, evidence has emerged that "microchimerism" - where a mother and fetus exchange a few cells via the placenta - is quite common. And that - much more than this two-in-a-million event - poses a challenge to our notion that we are all completely distinct, separate, autonomous individuals, genetically and otherwise.

It also makes me glad that the tummy bug that's been making the rounds here this week - and hit my Bear tonight - is really just a bug and not, say, a whole 'nother human causing the bellyache.

Gratuitous garden porn: Because sometimes that brutal wench, Mother Nature, is unaccountably kind. These tulips in front of my house finished blooming a week or so ago.

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