Additional DNA Introduced During Bone Marrow Transplants Could Affect Court Evidence

  • The new findings came to light afterChris Long had a bone marrow transplant and his DNA suddenly included the DNA of his unrelated donor.
  • Can DNA evidence now be successfully challenged in court?
  • Could a wealthy criminal pay for a procedure to have their DNA changed in order to avoid prosecution and disappear?

Bone marrow transplants have been used for over 50 years. The first bone marrow transplant was performed in 1956 by Dr E. Donnall Thomas in Cooperstown, New York. This milestone involved identical twins, with bone marrow taken from the healthy twin, and given to the other, who had leukemia. However, this was from a related donor.

A lot of bone marrow transplants are done from unrelated donors. This procedure is used for certain types of cancers and genetic disorders. A bone marrow transplant is a medical procedure performed to replace bone marrow that has been damaged or destroyed by disease, infection, or chemotherapy. This procedure involves transplanting blood stem cells, which travel to the bone marrow where they produce new blood cells and promote growth of new marrow.

Bone marrow transplants are performed when a person’s marrow isn’t healthy enough to function properly. This could be due to chronic infections, disease, or cancer treatments.

However, it has recently become apparent that there could be an issue with the DNA related to these procedures. Deoxyribonucleic acid is a molecule composed of two chains that coil around each other to form a double helix carrying genetic instructions for the development, functioning, growth and reproduction of all known organisms and many viruses.

When it comes to the criminal justice system and the databases currently used to gather such data, DNA is generally used to solve crimes in one of two ways. In cases where a suspect is identified, a sample of that person’s DNA can be compared to evidence from the crime scene. The results of this comparison may help establish whether the suspect committed the crime.

The new DNA findings came to light after a story was published by the UK Independent about a US citizen Chris Long who had a bone marrow transplant and three months later his DNA suddenly included the DNA of his unrelated donor residing in Germany. Hence, Chris Long after four years had two sets of DNA. This is the first case of its kind. Long’s case was presented at the forensic science conference this fall.

The backbone of the DNA strand is made from alternating phosphate and sugar residues.

The question remains: can DNA evidence now be successfully challenged in court? Another question arises about paternity cases that use DNA. Can an individual be forced to disclose if they’ve had a bone marrow transplant?

Also, bone marrow transplant donors are searched through the global database and as of late the International Marrow registry has reached 25 million potential donors worldwide. Should this information be used for verification purposes? It is not a common practice for the individual receiving the transplant to know the identity of the donor. So, if that person has committed a crime, could the marrow recipient be implicated in the future?

Here’s another scenario: could a wealthy criminal pay for a procedure to have their DNA changed in order to avoid prosecution and disappear? There are known cases of plastic surgery being done to avoid capture. What about the same with a DNA change?

Since medical information is private, how would privacy laws work in this case? Certain transplants are done in countries like India, where medical tourism is a big business already. Could this be another added service?

We still don’t know the full ramifications of this development. There hasn’t been enough research. Nevertheless, the implications are compelling.

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Christina Kitova

I spent most of my professional life in finance, insurance risk management litigation.

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