Disappearing and Dual DNA

One of my all-time favorite books is Jodi Picoult’s Perfect Match which uses the idea that someone receiving a bone marrow transplant could have their DNA changed (During a Transplant Does the Donor’s DNA Integrate Into the Host?). So, when I read this recent article (When a DNA Test Says You’re a Younger Man, Who Lives 5,000 Miles Away), I already had my suspicions about what had happened.

It’s a fascinating story.

Three months after his bone marrow transplant, Chris Long of Reno, Nev., learned that the DNA in his blood had changed. It had all been replaced by the DNA of his donor, a German man he had exchanged just a handful of messages with.

[Long had] been encouraged to test his blood by a colleague at the Sheriff’s Office, where he worked. She had an inkling this might happen. It’s the goal of the procedure, after all: Weak blood is replaced by healthy blood, and with it, the DNA it contains.

But four years after his lifesaving procedure, it was not only Long’s blood that was affected. Swabs of his lips and cheeks contained his DNA — but also that of his donor. Even more surprising to Long and other colleagues at the crime lab was that all of the DNA in his semen belonged to his donor. “I thought that it was pretty incredible that I can disappear and someone else can appear,” Long said.

This means that Long became a chimera or a person with two sets of DNA (See my previous blog Suspect Sketches from DNA for more information.).

What if your donor commits a crime but because your DNA matches theirs, you are a prime suspect? How would you prove your innocence without an alibi?

Or

What if a criminal decides having a bone-marrow transplant in order to disappear (I know it’s extreme but go with me here.) but when their body starts to reject the transplant, they are at risk of being caught.

Or

What about someone working in the crime lab who is trying to help the Sheriff’s office solve a prominent case. Is the lab technician helping or hurting the case using what they know about DNA analysis?

Who wants to talk more about how you can use this idea in your current or next story?

[Credit: flickr/Helen Carmody]
E-mail emilie@real2reelscience.com Hours M-F: 5-10pm EDT, EST Weekends: 12-5pm and other times by appointment.
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