Does Having a Blood Transfusion Change Your DNA?

Updated on March 19, 2018
Source

Recently, I went to my local American Red Cross to donate blood. Donating blood has become something of a ritual for me. I started doing it about once every three months upon hearing that it can have many potentially beneficial effects for men's health. Yet, on one visit the question dawned on me. Does having a blood transfusion change your DNA in any way?

After a through investigation, I found that the answer is not really. There are a few potential ways that blood transfusions could change your state of health. Although blood banks and the institutions tied to them; do their very best to make sure that this cannot happen. Let's dig into the topic a little further.

What Happens After A Blood Transfusion?

In a donor blood transfusion, blood from another individual (the blood donor) is driven intravenously through the veins of the recipient's body (almost always from a blood bag). To answer the question, will a blood transfusion change your DNA? We will have to look at the contents of that blood bag. Luckily, we know the answer:

  • Red Blood Cells (45%)
  • Plasma (55%)
  • White Blood Cells & Platelets (< 1%)

Of all these components, the only component of donor blood that has a cell nucleus (and thus DNA) is white blood cells (aka Leukocytes). And as the bullet point shows their contribution to donor blood is less than 1%. To put this in perspective, while one pint of blood contains at least 4 trillion microscopic organisms; white blood may account for maybe only one billion organisms. Therefore, the actual amount of foreign DNA entering one's body through transfusion is minuscule. Moreover, this small amount of foreign DNA has almost no ability to affect the rest of your body's performance/attributes. Let's see why.

Source

How Your Body Deals w/Foreign DNA

According to this widely cited article from the Scientific American. The human body generally treats DNA from donor blood as a "relatively innocuous interloper." The body's natural processes almost guarantee that donor DNA is "muted."

For instance, the average life cycle of a white blood cell is 3 to 4 days. And white blood cells do not replicate or divide. Almost all blood cells are produced by the bone marrow. (About 200 billion red blood cells per day, and about 5 billion white blood cells per day.) Simply put, the foreign donor DNA gets overwhelmed by the recipients own DNA. Cells containing the foreign DNA simply die off.

It is worth noting however that the length of time that donor DNA remains in someone's body seems to be related to how much blood was actually transferred from donor to recipient. Studies on female donor recipients found that for smaller scale blood transfusions, donor DNA could still be detected in the recipient's body 7-8 days after the transfusion. For large-scale blood transfusions, donor DNA could be detected in the recipient's body for up to a year and a half after the transfusion.

Exceptions To The Rule / Possible Caveats

So to answer the question, does a blood transfusion change DNA? is NO. The donor's DNA is generally degraded within the recipient's body over time, eventually disappearing altogether. This does not mean that donor DNA and donor blood cannot have an effect on the recipient's body.

Although complications from a donor blood transfusion are extremely rare due to the safety precautions that are taken by blood banks and other related services, they can happen. The symptoms of these complications can include:

  • Allergic Reactions
  • Fever
  • Iron Overproduction
  • Graft Versus Host Diseases

Under the last category is something called 'febrile non-hemolytic transfusion reaction'. It is a rare reaction to donor DNA whereby the recipient's white blood cells actively attack the white blood cells in the donor blood.

It is also worth mentioning however that some blood banks address this and other conditions by taking out as many white blood cells from donor blood before storage. They do this by centrifuging the donor blood. A centrifuge will separate donor blood into its four main components: red blood cells, platelets, plasma and white blood cells. At this time the white blood cells are discarded. The blood is then further screened for virulent strains of virus and bacteria before usage.

Bone Marrow Transplants & Blood Chimeras

One way in which a person's DNA can be changed (at least in their white blood cells) permanently is through a bone marrow transplant. Traditionally, bone marrow transplants have been performed as such. Surgeons remove all the bone marrow present in the patient. Then they replace the bone marrow with donor bone marrow. Since bone marrow is responsible for producing platelets as well as red and white blood cells. Donor bone marrow will produce blood cells containing the DNA of the original donor.

In the same breath, the cells in the rest of your body will continue to have your original DNA (the one you were born with). So just like some Frankenstein creation, you will have 2 sets of DNA for the rest of your life. The popularized name for this phenomenon is human chimerism. And as it turns out it is much more common than people realize. It can even occur naturally (without a bone marrow transplant). You can read more about blood chimerism and its effects here.

Source

In Conclusion:

Can having a blood transfusion change your DNA in any way? No. Not really. As explained before, it is possible that someone else's DNA could be present (and may even show up on tests) in your body for some time after the transfusion. But your body's natural process will prevent that "foreign" donor DNA from being expressed anywhere else in your system.

The only true way for there to be a change in the DNA contained in your blood cells would be through a bone marrow transplant. Interestingly, enough there is one case in Alaska where bone marrow transplants led to police investigators to ID the wrong perpetrator in a sexual assault crime. The details of the case can be seen here.

Questions & Answers

    Comments

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, owlcation.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: "https://owlcation.com/privacy-policy#gdpr"

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)