Monthly Archives: January 2019

Fetal microchimerism as a (new?) form of forensic evidence – could my scientific idea solve the Tegan Lane mystery?

So, here’s my understanding of the bare bones of the situation; young mother is sent to jail for the best part of her life after one of her offspring, a daughter reportedly born and conceived during an “affair”, cannot be found by child welfare dept. Mother claims she gave newborn to the baby’s biological father to raise in an informal arrangement, but is no longer in contact with him. Police reportedly searched high and low for baby and custodial father, unsuccessfully, and charged the mother with murder, despite no body or forensic evidence of foul play. The very existence of the custodial father is disputed by some, and it is unclear how these people believe the female child was conceived. Maybe they are very religious, or maybe they have assumed that the biological father was this woman’s regular partner, with whom she did not wish to raise a child. The man in the affair, if he exists, could be living in any part of the world.

Finding the “missing” daughter alive should be a “get out of jail” card for the mother, but perhaps proving her identity to the satisfaction of relevant authorities might not be a simple matter. Finding the custodial or biological father of the “missing” child could solve the mystery of what happened to the child, and would also lend some credibility to the mother’s account of what happened to the child. An obvious potential type of tool to solve this mystery would be genealogical DNA sharing databases, as have been used to investigate crimes such as the repulsive Golden State Killer. I’m not sure whether police powers would be required to complete this kind of investigation in this case, and I’m also not sure whether the jailed mother has or even could practically or legally pursue this line of investigation using her own DNA, from within the confines of jail.

It appears that there is no record of the DNA of the missing daughter (who would now be a young adult if still alive) as the Guthrie Test was never done on her as a newborn (a battery of genetic tests on a blood sample to detect rare disorders treatable in infancy), but I think there is a better than even chance that the mother still is in posession of some of that child’s DNA, and also DNA of that child’s father. How? Where? Inside her body, through fetomaternal microchimerism  also possibly through male microchimerism. To complicate matters, the mother has also had a number of pregnancies and partners, so she will have quite a library of other people’s DNA chugging around in her veins and living within her organs, potentially even within her brain (as is that case in any well-lived woman’s life), but I believe that searching for that particular child’s DNA inside the body of the jailed biological mother could possibly by done by a process of elimination, in a laboratory. I guess whatever DNA content in the child’s genome is not identical with the mother’s DNA must be the natural, custodial father’s DNA. Not all of his DNA will be present, but perhaps enough DNA to use to find him or his relatives on a DNA sharing database. There you go!

P.S. Do blood banks and tissue or organ donation organisations need to review their privacy policies to acknowedge the fact that various facts can be deduced about a woman’s (and maybe a man’s) sexual, reproductive and family history from microchimerism testing of their blood or tissues?

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