BIOPHOTO ASSOCIATES / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY BIOPHOTO ASSOCIATES / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
A newborn baby with spina bifida (rachischisis), a developmental defect in which part of the spinal cord and its coverings are exposed through a gap in the backbone. The defect is associated with abnormally high levels of alphafetoprotein in the amniotic fluid surrounding the embryo. The condition can be diagnosed early in pregnancy by a test on the amniotic fluid known as amniocentesis. When positive, pregnancy can be terminated. Symptoms of spina bifida may include paralysis of the legs, incontinence and mental retardation.
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