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Is it true one person can have two DNA? Yes, and here’s all you need to know

Claim: A Facebook post claims a person can have children not linked to his or her DNA because the person has two or more cells.

Our findings and experts’ opinions reveal that it is possible for an individual to have two DNA and have children not linked to them by one DNA. This is due to a condition known as chimerism.

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Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is the hereditary material in humans and almost all other organisms. It is used to carry out paternity tests which has become a topic of discussion in Nigeria with the recent rise in cases of  paternity fraud.

Amidst this, several Facebook users have claimed that it is possible for a DNA test not to link a father and a child because one person can have two DNA. 

A Facebook post by Princess Jessy-Doo claims an individual can have two or more sets of cells and children that are not linked to him or her by DNA. 

“A human chimera may likely produce kids who are not linked to his DNA since he is having two or more sets of cells” part of the Facebook post read.

Screenshot of Facebook post by Princess Jessy-Doo.

Another post by Lene Temitope notes how DNA results can be tricky, urging parents to carry out their own DNA test to be sure none of them is a Chimera.

Screenshot of Facebook post by Lene Temitope.

The comments under this post were a mixture of awe, confusion and disbelief.

One Facebook user, Aondofa Shedrack, said he still won’t believe this, noting that if it’s not his DNA then it’s nothing. Another user, Iji Silas, however, appreciated the poster for sharing. 

Is this true? What are the odds, how does this work? These questions prompted us to do this check. 

Verification

We researched the topic chimerism and how it works and also spoke to experts on the issue.

What is Chimerism? Chimerism is a rare condition in which a person’s body contains two different sets of DNA. This condition is believed to be quite rare as only about 100 or so cases of chimerism have been recorded in modern medical literature. Chimerism can also affect animals. 

So an animal or human that has the cells of two or more individuals is known as a chimera. The bodies of chimaeras contain two different sets of DNA.

Types of chimerism

Chimerism has different types with different causes and symptoms. The types include microchimerism, artificial chimerism, twin chimerism, and tetragametic Chimarism

Microchimerism

This type of chimerism commonly occurs when a pregnant woman absorbs a few cells from her foetus. The opposite can also happen, where a foetus absorbs a few cells from its mother.

These cells may travel into the mother’s or foetus’s bloodstream and migrate to different organs. The cells may remain in a mother’s body or a child’s body for a decade or more after  childbirth.

Artificial chimerism

This type of chimerism can occur when a person receives a blood transfusion, stem cell transplant, or bone marrow transplant from another person and absorbs some of that person’s cells.

Today, the treatment of transfused blood with radiation helps the transfusion or transplant recipient better absorb the new cells without permanently incorporating them into their body.

Twin chimerism

The more extreme and most talked about in Nigeria in recent times is twin Chimerism. This type occurs when a pair of twins is conceived but one embryo dies in the womb and the surviving foetus absorbs some of the cells of its deceased twin.

This gives the surviving foetus two sets of cells (its own cells and some of its twin’s).

Tetragametic chimerism

This type occurs when two different sperm cells fertilise two different egg cells which fuse together into one human embryo with crossed cell lines.

Symptoms of Chimerism 

The symptoms of chimerism vary from one person to another and many with this condition do not show signs, or do not recognize these signs as chimerism. 

These symptoms include:

  • hyperpigmentation (increased skin darkness) or hypopigmentation (increased skin lightness) in small patches or across areas as large as half of the body
  • two different-colored eyes
  • genitals that have both male and female parts (intersex), or that look sexually unclear (this sometimes results in infertility)
  • two or more sets of DNA present in the body’s red blood cells
  • possible autoimmune issues, such as those related to the skin and nervous system

We found some reported cases of Chimerism in a California singer, Taylor Muhl, a United States (US) man, and a woman named Lydia Fairchild in Washington. These cases reveal different ways chimerism can present.

Experts opinion

Dr Okpanachi Achile, a medical officer at  Rehoboth Specialist Hospital Lokoja, noted several postulations for chimerism from vanishing twin to bone marrow transplant. 

He explained that in vanishing twins syndrome, the living twin absorbs the remainder of the dead twin and if the twins are fraternal twins,  they are two different individuals and DNAs. 

“The absorbed tissue being a stem cell may retain its original identity/DNA leading to a chimera DNA. Similarly in bone marrow transplant (bone marrow is also a stem cell) a chimera may occur” he said. 

A gynaecologist at the National Hospital Abuja, Dr Jeremiah Agim, said this is not a new discovery and it can be a challenge when there is a paternity dispute because not all cells of the body may have the two genotypes. 

“It’s not new, it’s all about finding two genotypes in an individual’s  cell. This can occur when twins fuse together at the zygote stage. So, not all the cells of the body might have the two genotypes. 

“This is a challenge in cases where paternity is in dispute. With careful examination of cells from other body regions, similar genotypes can be found. So there must be two genotypes in an individual before chimera DNA can explain why a child is not genetically identical to that individual who is the supposed parent.”

Conclusion

Our findings and experts’ opinions have revealed that it is possible for an individual to have two DNA and have children not linked to them by DNA. This is due to a condition known as chimerism. This makes the claim true. 

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