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Getting a bone marrow transplant could give you new DNA, too

Roger Schlueter, Belleville News-Democrat on

Published in Science & Technology News

"So, his blood DNA profile was the same as his brother's DNA profile," said Dr. Azita Alizadeh, a former genetics researcher at Stanford. "But his cheek swab DNA profile was different. This case ... points out the small risk that potential marrow donors take by having their DNA profile turning up in a crime database if the recipient later commits a crime. But this risk is probably better than the alternative."

It also proves why if you're thinking of ordering a DNA profile, you should do it before a stem cell transplant.

"As a bone marrow recipient, your blood cells will contain the DNA from your marrow donor, while your epithelial cells contain your own DNA," 23and Me advised one potential customer. "The combination frequently results in analysis failure. In the event that the analysis was successful, it still would be unclear whether the results were based on DNA from you or from your donor."

So far, I can find little to suggest that donor DNA actually combines with own genome, either in whole or part. Still, I can probably anticipate your next question: Will a simple blood transfusion cause the same problems? Not according to Michelle Gong, an assistant professor at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

"Studies have shown that donor DNA in blood transfusion recipients persists for a number of days, sometimes longer," she told Gizmodo.com. "But its presence is unlikely to alter genetic tests significantly."

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