A baby’s internal organs may have developed too early in the development of their nuchal transducer, which converts light into sound, according to a study published in the journal Nature Medicine.
The study, led by Dr. Paul Lacey of the University of Cambridge, examined the ultrasound images of 32 newborns whose organs had not yet developed properly.
The researchers found that the ultrasound of the fetus was much higher in the midsection than the abdomen, indicating a lower-than-normal amount of development.
But they did not find any abnormalities in the external anatomy of the baby.
This is a rare case of an ultrasound that might be a sign of abnormal development.
“The lower-body organs have a very strong ability to adapt to external conditions, so they have a natural tendency to develop in the upper body,” Dr. Lacey said.
The ultrasound image above shows a fetus with its upper torso, which is more developed than the lower.
But Dr. C. S. Dutton, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University Hospitals of Manchester in England, said the ultrasound image is “just not very convincing.”
“The ultrasound shows a lower torso with a much larger internal organs,” he said.
“It’s really difficult to interpret that, especially because you don’t have any organs to test it on.”
Dr. Dandy Bremner, an obstetrician-gynecologist at the New York University Langone Medical Center, said that although it’s hard to say exactly what happened in the fetus, he does not think it was the cause of an abnormality in the organs.
“In general, we tend to be more cautious about things that we can’t control, and we want to minimize any potential harm,” Dr Bremners told ABC News.
“There’s no indication that there was anything that could have caused it, and the results are consistent with a normal development of the organs.”
The ultrasound images are just a small piece of what’s known about the process of pregnancy, said Dr. Bremers.
“We really have no idea what’s going on in the unborn child, because the ultrasound is not a good surrogate for the unborn fetus,” he explained.
“You need to have a detailed analysis of the entire placenta to really get a good picture.”
The study does not prove that ultrasound abnormalities are a cause of the birth defect, but it does provide a glimpse into what might happen during the process.
It also may be a step toward understanding the development and evolution of a child’s organs, Dr. M. K. Gupta, a researcher at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told ABCNews.com.
“What we’re interested in is how these babies develop, because we’re concerned about this as a condition for the future,” he added.
“This is one of the best pieces of evidence we’ve found that there may be something that might have occurred in these babies at a later stage.”
The research was supported by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, the National Institutes on Aging, and Penn State.
Dr. Gupta’s team is currently conducting a follow-up study to look at the development patterns of the fetal brain.