DNA- Who Knew this could happen?

I read this when it was posted on my True Crime All The Time group. After reading it I found it fascinating and all kinds of plots popped into my head

By Heather Murphy

  • Dec. 7, 2019

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 It had all been replaced by the DNA of his donor, a German man he had exchanged just a handful of messages with.

He’d 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 Mr. 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 Mr. Long and other colleagues at the crime lab, 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,” he said.

Mr. Long had become a chimera, the technical term for the rare person with two sets of DNA. The word takes its name from a fire-breathing creature in Greek mythology composed of lion, goat and serpent parts. Doctors and forensic scientists have long known that certain medical procedures turn people into chimeras, but where exactly a donor’s DNA shows up — beyond blood — has rarely been studied with criminal applications in mind.

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Tens of thousands of people get bone marrow transplants every year, for blood cancers and other blood diseases including leukemia, lymphoma and sickle cell anemia. Though it’s unlikely that any of them would end up as the perpetrator or victim of a crime, the idea that they could intrigued Mr. Long’s colleagues at the Washoe County Sheriff’s Department, who have been using their (totally innocent) colleague in IT as a bit of a human guinea pig.

The implications of Mr. Long’s case, which was presented at an international forensic science conference in September, have now captured the interest of DNA analysts far beyond Nevada.

The average doctor does not need to know where a donor’s DNA will present itself within a patient. That’s because this type of chimerism is not likely to be harmful. Nor should it change a person. “Their brain and their personality should remain the same,” said Andrew Rezvani, the medical director of the inpatient Blood & Marrow Transplant Unit at Stanford University Medical Center.

He added that patients also sometimes ask him what it means for a man to have a woman’s chromosomes in their bloodstream or vice versa. “It doesn’t matter,” he said.

But for a forensic scientist, it’s a different story. The assumption among criminal investigators as theygather DNA evidence from a crime scene is that each victim and each perpetrator leaves behind a single identifying code — not two, including that of a fellow who is 10 years younger and lives thousands of miles away. And so Renee Romero, who ran the crime lab at the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, saw an opportunity when her friend and colleague told her that his doctor had found a suitable match on a donor website and he would be undergoing a bone marrow transplant.

“We need to swab the heck out of you before you have this procedure to see how this DNA takes over your body,” she recalled telling him.

Mr. Long agreed. He welcomed an intriguing distraction from his diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndromes, both of which impair the production of healthy blood cells.

At the time, he said, “I didn’t even know if I would live.”

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Four years later, with Mr. Long in remission and back at work, Ms. Romero’s experiment persisted, aided by her crime lab colleagues. Within four months of the procedure, Mr. Long’s blood had been replaced by his donor’s blood. Swabs collected from his lip, cheek and tongue showed that these also contained his donor’s DNA, with the percentages rising and falling over the years. Of the samples collected, only his chest and head hair were unaffected. The most unexpected part was that four years after the procedure, the DNA in his semen had been entirely replaced by his donor’s.

“We were kind of shocked that Chris was no longer present at all,” said Darby Stienmetz, a criminalist at the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office.

If another patient responded similarly to a transplant and that person went on to commit a crime, it could mislead investigators, said Brittney Chilton, a criminalist at the Sheriff’s Office forensic science division.

And it has misled them, Ms. Chilton learned once she began to research chimerism. In 2004, investigators in Alaska uploaded a DNA profile extracted from semen to a criminal DNA database. It matched a potential suspect. But there was a problem: The man had been in prison at the time of the assault. It turned out that he had received a bone marrow transplant. The donor, his brother, was eventually convicted.

Abirami Chidambaram, who presented the Alaska case in 2005, when she worked for the Alaska State Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory in Anchorage, said she had heard about another disconcerting scenario since then. It involved policeinvestigators who were skeptical of a sexual assault victim’s account because she said there had been one attacker, though DNA analysis showed two. Eventually the police determined that the second profile had come from her bone marrow donor.

Similar scenarios could also create confusion around a victim’s identity — and in fact it has, said Yongbin Eom, a visiting research scholar at the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification. In 2008, he was trying to identify the victim of a traffic accident for the National Forensic Service in Seoul, South Korea. Blood showed that the individual was female. But the body appeared to be male, which was confirmed by DNA in a kidney, but not in the spleen or the lung, which contained male and female DNA. Eventually, he figured out that the victim had received a bone marrow transplant from his daughter.

The specifics of Mr. Long’s situation raise an inevitable question: What happens if he has a baby? Would he pass on the genes of his German donor or his own to future offspring? In this case, the answer will remain untested because Mr. Long had a vasectomy after his second child was born.

But what about everyone else? Three bone marrow transplant experts who were surveyed agreed that it was an intriguing question. They also agreed that passing on someone else’s genes as a result of a transplant like Mr. Long’s was impossible.

“There shouldn’t be any way for someone to father someone else’s child,” said Dr. Rezvani, the Stanford medical director.

That’s not to say that other forms of chimerism haven’t created comparably confusing scenarios. Fraternal twins sometimes acquire each other’s DNA in the womb; in at least one case that led to unfounded fears of infidelity when a man’s child did not seem to be his. In another case, a mother nearly lost custody of her children after a DNA test.

But a donor’s blood cells should not be able to create new sperm cells, Dr. Rezvani said. Dr. Mehrdad Abedi, the doctor at the University of California, Davis, who treated Mr. Long, agreed: He believed it was Mr. Long’s vasectomy that explained how his semen came to contain his donor’s DNA. The forensic scientists involved say they plan to investigate further.

Everyone who has reviewed Mr. Long’s case agrees on one thing: He is a living, breathing case study of one, and it’s impossible to say how many other people respond to bone marrow transplants the same way he did. It’s simply one of those curious possibilities that forensic analysts may want to consider when DNA results are not adding up.

For his part, Mr. Long said he hopes to meet his donor during an upcoming trip to Germany and to thank him in person for saving his life.

How To Train Your Brain To Write

Training, is the key word. When you want to run a marathon you have to be motivated to even want to do it? Why would anyone want to run? That’s my question? I hear people say I feel this rush and I love it. {shudder}

The whole concept of getting outdoors and walking, jogging or worse running is totally foreign to me. However the process is the same. I love to write. There are times I don’t feel motivated, I don’t have a story, I will go out to my favorite writing site and look for contests to enter. I will google writing prompts and scroll through them until I find one that hits me and my brain begins to form a plot out of the prompt.
In these instances I don’t plan, I just write what I think the story is about. Sometimes the writing is in detail and other times it’s about the basic action.

I’d love to say “Write something every day.” We all know that in our busy schedule we may not be able to do that. The same with running. If it’s a past time we fit it in our lives when we can. If it’s something we love, we push other things aside to MAKE time to run.

A marathon is like the National Write a Novel in a Month. We prep for it in October and then on November 1 we start writing. We move everything aside so there is time to write every day. Sometimes we write more on a day to plan for those days when our schedule is full.

I am just 5 days from the finish line and I have 5,106 words left to write. I don’t want to be like the Hare in the fable and not finish or have to madly write at the end. I will plug along today and every day until I get to the end.

This is what I feel is training your brain. If you look for stories in life, you’ll find them. If you keep a running idea of what you like to write, you can always fit a story in to that narrative. I just wrote a story for a contest the other day. I have a setting I love and it’s a bit on the weird and spooky side. I fit the prompt into that idea and wrote almost 3,000 words about a camera that captured the subjects when they were filmed. You can train your brain to write, if you just write to train your brain.

Day 13 of the NANOWRIMO

Just a post to say I’m on track. I logged my total words last night at 22,285.
I’m progressing on this story. I don’t write in ACTS. I’m not even sure how. I just keep writing the story.

Overview up to now-
The body parts are found. Our Main Character, Andrea Watson and FBI agent Fletcher Peterson, have connected with the Hmong doctor who preserved more body parts found by fellow fishermen. Now it’s been revealed there is a connection to two missing women, one from Kansas and one from Missouri.
Our Main character has been approved to travel to Kansas to observe the investigation there. This is a thorn in her team leader’s side. He can’t understand why she is asked by the FBI to go. He throws the news article about her father on her desk accusing her of seeking the limelight in the public eye. Something Andrea abhors.
A number of people the two have questioned mention a family that lives on the lake. Their description of the father and his overbearing control of his children has moved his name to the top of their suspect list.
What is going to happen once she gets to Kansas? What will they find there? Will Andrea’s research into reports from the locals lead her to find a connection the authorities missed before? What will Fletcher think about her ability to “see” what others miss?

A friendly discussion

I met Stian on Masterclass and followed his discussion. It garnered lot of thought while reading and re-reading the following post. I hope you find it as interesting. Make your comments below.  You’ll have to read his blog then come back here to comment on my blog.

This is the link to his blog: http://stianthewriter.com/2019/10/09/my-philosophy-of-thoughts-feelings-and-mental-life-aspects-an-introduction/


When I asked for more clarification here is his response:

You didn’t miss it. I didn’t cover this, but may get back to it later.

One thing to consider in response to science:

There are scientists who argue that humans have no free will. This is based on brain studies where scientists can (more or less) predict a behavior seconds or a minute before it takes place — arguably, before a person has decided to enact that behavior herself.

So if an action can be predicted before a person has decided to do it, how can there then be free will?

However, there is another way of interpreting these findings… We can think of these findings as impulses that humans may choose whether or not to act on. And if an impulse seems rational (such as making dinner if hungry) we choose to act on these impulses, which is why scientists may predict with 90 % accuracy that a certain action may take place.

In conclusion, we may act on an impulse because it seems rational to us, or because we’re not thinking consciously about the impulse before we act on it.

(The only specific experiment I’m familiar with myself, is that scientists could predict with 90 % accuracy whether rats would turn left or right on a certain path they were walking on. Arguably, this research is also transferrable to humans given similarities in brain structure.)

As for why it is credible that humans have free will (i.e. the capability of acting spontaneously, not being fully controlled by processes of nature), this is because we perform rational acts (in succession) that would seem very coincidental if we did not have free will.

One example:

People can have a conversation for hours, in which each participant’s response is related to a particular topic, and in which each response to some degree mirrors what the previous speaker has said. This is especially true in business and political meetings, but also in ordinary conversations.

Now, if humans did not have free will, then our response would be determined by forces outside our control. That would mean that nature could force us say things or act in ways that have nothing to do with the topic at hand.

There are a thousand ways to respond to what a previous person has said, and yet we often choose a response that stands in relation to the discussion. And when we conduct a conversation for hours, it seems extremely unlikely — to put it carefully — that forces of nature time and again make us choose a rational response (a response that is thematically related to the discussion) when for each rational response, there are at least 999 ways of responding (i.e. things to say) that have nothing to do with the topic at hand.

In conclusion, it is our rational behavior (over time) that strongly suggests the existence of free will.

Here’s an optional scenario:

In a world without free will, the chance we are able to have a rational conversation (a short one) is 1/1000 (= probability of rational response) ^5 (= multiplied with 1/1000 per response in the conversation).

This would result in a chance of 1/1,000,000,000,000,000 for a rational conversation containing as little as five responses (altogether from both parties) to the initial statement (= 1/1000 multiplied with itself five times).

And then you have the conversations that last for hours.

2019 Nanowrimo- Beneath the Ice

Here it is almost November and I’ve been prepping. I’ve left off writing anything for awhile as I tried to immerse myself into this story. I like the plot. I love the idea of where it goes. I had fun looking up some of the specifics I would need to know.
Who knew how to preserve biological evidence? I thought you could just put them in water/alcohol/formaldehyde and voila’ it was preserved. Oh NO! That is all wrong. The pieces of body parts would be destroyed and no DNA could be recovered. (I hope I read it right.) I’m assuming that all the jars you see with biological matter in them are meant to be preserved not re-examined.

It is necessary for my doctor character to have done the same thing I did and read about the proper way to preserve these items he received. Which he did. Then when my Detective and the FBI agent show up and take possession of said body parts, they can be tested for DNA and eventually matched to any existing DNA submitted by relatives.

I listened to my favorite podcast TRUE CRIME ALL THE TIME with Mike and Gibby for the last four weeks. They examined John Wayne Gasey. What I learned from this case is there are still bodies not identified.
I was just as curious about that as they were. One hypothesis they came to was; maybe it was better for the families to have some hope their loved one would show up, then to find they were the subject of JWG degenerate and public interest.  I can understand that.

As I plot the story is may seem a bit hypothetical. I’m fine with that. Most good stories stretch the imagination to its breaking point. Could it happen like I write it? Yes.  Is it probable that it would happen this way? Meh, not really. But it’s a really cool story.

For the month of November I will need to be writing, at the least 1, 666 words  A DAY.  I find it’s not all that hard to write 2,000 if the mood strikes. It becomes more difficult if you’ve written your plot into a corner and can’t get out. I know because I have at least 3 novels in progress. I add a little more to their plots when the muse strikes.

What does it take to write a novel? Determination and a good story. When I wrote The Vanishing of Katherine Sullivan I was driven to tell this story. I knew it would be a good one. I don’t even remember if I had much plot prep done. I jumped in and started writing and the story flowed out of me.  How did that happen? How can I get that to happen again?

I took James Patterson’s Master Class and finally read two of his books. I’m not hooked. The first one of the series, about a woman detective, captured my interest. Book #2 lost me. However I am intrigued by his style. He writes each scene as a chapter. There is very little segue needed. The setting and character development is done in bits and pieces. This could be useful in my story. I’m going to attempt to replicate his style. It may be more difficult and I’ll have to just write and edit later.

Here is the premise of my story:
Andrea Wilson is with the St. Paul, MN Criminal Apprehension Unit. She’s been there two years. On this frigid day in January 2020 she is watching cutters harvest ice from Blue Lake to be sent to Harriet Island for the Ice Palace project. The water here is the cleanest of the lakes surrounding the city limits.

 As she watchs there is a commotion around the area where the blocks of ice are directed to a conveyor that ends in a truck. She sees something that disturbs her and makes for the opening in the barricade. After flashing her badge, she heads for the men congregating around the blocks. There, frozen in the clear ice is a net full of body parts. A head and three feet cut above the ankles. In the next block of ice is a part of a torso and what looks like arms.

That is the beginning and inciting incident. I’ve learned a lot about serial killers and their habits. I don’t think I’ll insert the killer’s mind into the story. I want to keep the guessing process much like it would be if you were following it in the newspaper or on TV.

The Death Of The Family Secret | HuffPost UK

Ancestry and other DNA-testing companies are bringing old family secrets to light. These friends are now dealing with the truth about their fathers.
— Read on m.huffingtonpost.co.uk/

I’ve done my DNA as did my husband, son and daughter. I was pretty confident I knew most of my relatives so wasn’t concerned. It’s been fun building my family tree.

After reading this article I have a different view about these resources. I don’t think they should go away or be limited in any way. I do however feel each person purchasing a kit must first be required to read and sign EACH clause so they understand the risks involved in participating in the research.

I was initially upset that gedcom restricted law enforcement from freelancing DNA . They hired genealogists to trace possible family trees based on DNA they found at crime scenes. I applaud this ingenuity. The fact they’ve located and apprehended rapists and murderers is exceptional.

Now I see this can become a problem. I’ve been watching the Adnon Syed conviction as well as others possibly convicted wrongfully. We have a corrupt legal system. Not in every case. If the system fails repeatedly then that’s too many not to address.

DNA can be miss used. People tried and convicted wrongfully. Like anything else it can be miss used. The more research that’s done the more opportunity.