Pregnant baby: Girl in Hong Kong born with absorbed fetuses in condition called fetus in fetu
It is believed that the girl may have been one of three triplets and absorbed the other two fetuses as they developed in the womb.
A baby girl was born in Hong Kong in 2010 with partially formed fetuses between her liver and left kidney, in a case that was recently chronicled in the Hong Kong Medical Journal and remains Hong Kong’s first documented case of a rare condition called fetus in fetu.
At first, doctors thought that the baby girl had tumors in her abdomen. Upon closer inspection they realized the structures were actually two partially developed fetuses. One fetus weighed 14.2 grams while the other was approximately 9.3 grams. Both appeared to be eight to 10 weeks into gestation and had already developed skin tissue, bone with bone marrow, a primitive brain, ribs, intestines as well as limbs.
What caused the abnormality is still unclear, although there are a couple of theories. One theory is that fetus in fetu is an elevated form of teratoma, a tumor that gives rise to cells that can form mature, recognizable structures including skin, hair and bone. Another theory is that during embryonic development, a blastocyst that developed from a single fertilized egg collapsed. Its inner cells containing genetic material divided into three separate embryos within a shared placenta. This is a common occurrence during multiple embryonic development and results in multiple babies. However, in this case, during fetal development the baby girl’s fetus ended up wrapping itself around the other two fetuses. With no functional organs, the two other fetuses relied on the baby girl’s blood supply to sustain themselves.
Doctors removed the parasitic fetuses from the girl’s abdomen while she was three weeks old, and she has since fully recovered. While there are only 200 documented cases worldwide, fetus in fetu is thought to occur in one in 500,000 births worldwide.
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