Your sister tells you she's pregnant. She presents you with a smudgy, black, how-is-this-even-a-baby picture. "Adorable!" you croon/lie. Those early-stage sonograms don't look like anything at all. But a cinematic MRI produces super-detailed pictures of that foetus, and it's being employed by a researcher in the UK to look at twins for the first time.
Marisa Taylor-Clarke is using the technique to study twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, a disorder where the two babies' blood supplies connect, one gets more of the supply, and the other's growth is stunted. While the usual imaging method takes pictures of little slices of the body, cinematic MRIs capture the same slice over and over and pulls them together to make a pretty amazing video. These snapshots offer an unprecedented view inside the womb. You can see the twins' tiny fists, little feet kicking, and even their itty bitty brains inside their not-yet-fully-grown heads.
Though twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome is something that can generally be fixed with an operation that blocks the offending shared blood vessels, doctors don't know how it affects brain development. They've scanned 24 sets of twins, and these new pictures are letting them see things they've never seen before, offering them clues as to how to better repair any issues. Furthermore, it gives more clues into twin development in general. Next time you're shown a picture of an unborn child, you might not have to bluff. [New Scientist]
Image: Marisa Taylor-Clarke/Imperial College London (left) andesign01/Shutterstock