The Short of It
A growth on a baby girl born in Hong Kong may have contained her absorbed twins that didn't fully develop. But a recent study of the growth has resulted in not one, but two theories of what really happened in this extremely rare case.
When she was born in 2010, a mass on the baby's side contained two partially formed fetus-like structures. Inside each of the structures were a spine, intestines, bones containing bone marrow, so-called "primitive" brain matter, a rib cage and an umbilical cord.
Researchers also found that the fetuses shared DNA with the baby girl, leading them to believe her mom was at one point, pregnant with identical triplets. If this theory is true, it means during the baby's development in the womb that she absorbed her only partially developed twin siblings, a phenomenon called fetus-in-fetu. Doctors and scientists still don't fully understand how it happens; that is how rare fetus-in-fetu is.
But another theory suggests the growth was actually a tumor called a teratoma, and it simply contained different kinds of tissue from the mother.
No matter which theory is correct, this is a very unique birth story, and researchers stand to gain plenty from studying the growth, like how very early human development works.
Of course, there's also the bizarre factor, which is why so many people are fascinated by this headline-making study.
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