Stories tagged baby

What's the hottest thing these days in Indonesia? People are flocking to a hospital to get a peek at huge newborn that tipped the scales at 19.2 pounds. Here's the link to more info and an amazing picture of the newborn.

On February 19, a three-banded armadillo was born at the Minnesota Zoo. (It's the third three-banded armadillo born at a zoo in the US this year.) He's not on display yet, but you can see a video of the little guy (who's about the size of a golf ball) on the Zoo's website.

At least one clinic in the US is using preimplantation genetic testing (PGD) and in vitro fertilization (IVF) to allow parents to select traits such as the hair and eye color of their children. The clinic director expects a trait-selected baby to be born next year. (This technique has been used for years to help select embryos free sex-linked and other genetic diseases, but the deliberate selection of non-medical traits is new.)

More on PGD

A British woman is expecting the birth of a baby next week. Not so unusual, except that doctors screened the baby, through preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), to be sure that he or she is free of a gene that causes breast cancer.

According to the article,

"The husband's grandmother, mother, sister and a cousin have been diagnosed with the disease [in their 20s].

While a daughter could have been affected by breast cancer herself if she carried the gene, a son could have been a carrier and passed it on to his daughters.

Mr Serhal said: 'The whole objective of this exercise is not just to make sure the child doesn't have the gene, but to stop the transmission from generation to generation.'"

Of course, the PGD doesn't guarantee that if the baby is a girl, she'll never develop breast cancer. There are other genetic and environmental causes for the disease. But at least she won't have the mutant gene that makes breast cancer a 50-80% certainty.

There's more on Buzz about PGD...


Two future fathers compare their progress: Hey! They should be in a bar!
Two future fathers compare their progress: Hey! They should be in a bar!Courtesy $4 griz
One Thomas Beatie of Bend, Oregon, claims to be five months pregnant with a baby girl.

A pregnant man… so strange… and yet so familiar. Where have I seen this before?

Oh, wait, I know exactly where I’ve seen this before: for the second time in as many months, Hollywood has beaten the rest of us saps to the scientific punch. And not just Hollywood, but the Terminator himself. First it was the thing with the twins, a so called scientific breakthrough that we had nonetheless seen 20 years ago in the film
, and now we’re being told that a pregnant man is something to get all excited about, when we’ve all already known about this kind of thing since 1994 and the film (that is to say, documentary) Junior, where a matronly Arnold Schwarzenegger frets over the impending catastrophic damage to his male urethra (this wasn’t explicit in the movie, as far as I know, but we all know Arnold is too tough for a cesarean—check out Predator—and there aren’t a lot of other options for a pregnant man).

As redundant as it may be to give them attention, here are the details of the current male pregnancy: Normal guy Thomas Beatie and his wife have been together for 10 years, and had long hoped to start a family. Sadly, Nancy Beatie had had a hysterectomy, and was unable to conceive. Thinking outside the box, the Beaties decided then to switch things up a little bit, and Thomas took up the pregnancy flag himself. This would have been particularly tricky, if not for the fact that Thomas Beatie was born Tracy Lagondino, a woman. Tracy underwent a sex change 10 years ago, and legally became Thomas, and a man, but decided to keep his reproductive organs. So, after halting his testosterone regimen and waiting for his menstrual cycle to resume, Thomas was artificially inseminated.

Five months into his pregnancy, Thomas announced his condition in the gay, lesbian, and transgender publication The Advocate, explaining the process, and the associated difficulties—both medical, and in getting friends, family, and the medical community to accept him as a man who wishes to carry his family’s child.

Here’s something else to consider: aside from Junior, even, this isn’t the first time there has been buzz over a male pregnancy. In 1999 an extensive website was launched to track the pregnancy of a man named Lee Mingwei. However, the website is still up in 2008, and mister Mingwei is still apparently pregnant—the whole thing was a performance art piece by the artist Virgil Wong. This has lead some to believe that Beatie and The Advocate are pulling a similar stunt. The fact that Beatie intends to speak to the news media in two days—April 1st—doesn’t exactly lend credibility to the story.

Any thoughts? A hoax, or the real deal? And how do you feel about a man getting pregnant?


Talk to me, baby: Infants begin learning speech from their first month.  Photo by Torbein on
Talk to me, baby: Infants begin learning speech from their first month. Photo by Torbein on

No, not by crying and pooping, but by recognizing speech. Researchers in Chicago have written a computer program that learns language sounds the same way a baby does. Exposed to tape recorded speech in English and Japanese, the computer learned to recognize all the basic vowel sounds in the language at the same pace as a baby.

This supports the theory of categorical perception. The human brain, faced with an infinite variety of sensory information, reduces that complexity by grouping similar phenomena into a manageable number of categories. Research has shown that babies can distinguish subtle variations in spoken sounds but, by their first birthday, have figured out what sounds occur in their native language. Any other sounds are lumped together with whatever native sound is closest, thus reducing the aural universe to a few manageable chunks.

(Once established, these categories can persist throughout life. My girlfriend, born and raised in Indonesia, say “dee” instead of “the” – not because she can’t make the “th” sound (if asked, she can), but because there is no “th” in her native language. The closest they have is “d,” and so every English “th” is lumped into that category. My few pathetic attempts to speak Indonesian have generated similar issues in reverse, as I substitute the English sounds I know into foreign words that are actually pronounced slightly differently.)

The computer research indicates that the human brain can do something very complicated, like learn a language, from just a few simple rules. Specific instructions do not have to be hard-wired in. This has important ramifications for understanding human intelligence, as well as for creating artificial intelligence.

It does not, however, explain why teenage girls talk so much. (Shameless plug.)

The results of a study just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggest that SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) deaths may be due to defects of the serotonin system of the infants' brain stems. It was a small study--only 31 brains from SIDS victims, compared to 10 control brains--but it certainly suggests a direction for further, expanded research.