All posts tagged: maternal grandmother

The Most Mysterious Cells in Our Bodies Don’t Belong to Us

The Most Mysterious Cells in Our Bodies Don’t Belong to Us

[ad_1] Some 24 years ago, Diana Bianchi peered into a microscope at a piece of human thyroid and saw something that instantly gave her goosebumps. The sample had come from a woman who was chromosomally XX. But through the lens, Bianchi saw the unmistakable glimmer of Y chromosomes—dozens and dozens of them. “Clearly,” Bianchi told me, “part of her thyroid was entirely male.” The reason, Bianchi suspected, was pregnancy. Years ago, the patient had carried a male embryo, whose cells had at some point wandered out of the womb. They’d ended up in his mother’s thyroid—and, almost certainly, a bunch of other organs too—and taken on the identities and functions of the female cells that surrounded them so they could work in synchrony. Bianchi, now the director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, was astonished: “Her thyroid had been entirely remodeled by her son’s cells,” she said. The woman’s case wasn’t a one-off. Just about every time an embryo implants and begins to grow, it dispatches bits of …

The Spiky, Unsentimental Visions of Diana Athill

The Spiky, Unsentimental Visions of Diana Athill

[ad_1] One of American fiction’s core preoccupations, these days, seems to be the question of what causes unhappiness. Many of our major writers are earnest anatomists of discontent and its social, psychological, and existential causes. This kind of fiction can be very powerful. Reading about loneliness when you’re lonely can provide both diagnosis and solace; encountering a character trapped by student debt or patriarchal expectation can inspire a sense of camaraderie in a reader facing similar frustrations. But more often than not, contemporary novelists handle their subject matter with immersive seriousness and sincerity—and sincerity, after a while, gets tiring. Misery may love company, but sometimes a miserable person wants cheering up too. If you’re looking to make a little light of sadness, as I have been, the work of Diana Athill might be the perfect place to turn. The legendary writer and editor is one of a loose cadre of 20th-century English and Irish women authors gaining resurgent attention for their brilliantly drawn characters and sharply witty prose; others in this camp include Penelope Fitzgerald, …