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Tumor had teeth: 4-month-old survives brain tumor that had fully formed teeth

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A tumor had teeth in a four-month-old baby's brain. While some tumors, called teratoma tumors, have been found to contain hair, teeth, bone, eyes, and even hands or feet, the brain tumor found in the baby boy from Maryland is assumed to be the first case of its kind ever. According to a Feb. 27, 2014, The New England Journal of Medicine report, the boy “is making good developmental progress, and as part of his follow-up, he currently undergoes routine MRI.”

During a routine pediatric visit, a doctor noticed that the four-month-old boy had an increased head circumference which prompted the pediatrician to follow up with an MRI (Magnetic resonance imaging) of the baby’s brain.

The tumor with teeth showed up on the brain scan as a mass that had structures that looked very similar to the teeth normally found in the lower jaw. During surgery, doctors discovered that the tumor in the baby's brain contained in fact several fully formed teeth.

After the surgery, an analysis of the mass showed that the boy had craniopharyngioma, which is a rare brain tumor. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “a craniopharyngioma is a benign tumor that develops near the pituitary gland (a small endocrine gland at the base of the brain),” and it results from pituitary gland embryonic tissue. The cells responsible for the formation of the tumor are the same cells responsible for the formation of teeth.

Like the tumor with teeth that was found in the four-month-old baby’s brain, craniopharyngiomas can be successfully treated with surgery and/or radiation. Unlike teratoma tumors, however, which contain all three of the tissue types found in an early-stage human embryo, craniopharyngiomas have only one layer of tissue making the discovery of mulitple fully grown teeth a first in science. Dr. Narlin Beaty, who is the neurosurgeon at the University of Maryland Medical Center who performed the boy's surgery along with his colleague, Dr. Edward Ahn, of Johns Hopkins Children's Center, said that "it's not every day you see teeth in any type of tumor in the brain. In a craniopharyngioma, it's unheard of.”

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