HOUSTON, Texas — Being a “chimera” sounds like something out of science fiction, but it’s an actual genetic term, and one young woman is talking about the fact that she has TWO sets of DNA in her body. Ananya Bashyam jokes that she is actually capable of framing her brother by leaving her unique blood behind at a crime scene.
Specifically, the term chimera describes an organism that contains at least two different sets of DNA. So, how did this happen in a human?
In Bashyam’s case, the 24-year-old was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia – a type of blood cancer – in October 2021. Her brother, 21-year-old college student Chaitanya, saved her life by donating bone marrow in July 2023 – transfusing his new cells into Ananya and replacing hers.
This means Ananya now has two sets of DNA – the blood of her brother and the rest of her own DNA – making her a chimera. She is now recovering from her operation and has two more check-ups to go to confirm if she is cancer-free.
“I will forever have two sets of DNA in my body,” Ananya says in an online video.
“If I left skin or hair at a crime scene it would come as mine. If I left my blood – I could frame my brother. It’s really crazy. He has actually saved my life.”
Ananya was diagnosed with this form of leukemia after experiencing a loss of vision and a fever in September 2021.
“I just froze. Part of me knew my life would never be the same after that. I was determined to fight my way through it,” the 24-year-old continues.
She had six weeks of chemotherapy and immunotherapy and was in remission at the end of 2021. Unfortunately, Ananya relapsed in March 2022 and was told a bone marrow transplant was her last option. Luckily for her, her brother was a 100-percent match and willing to be a donor.
“I feel lucky. They got rid of everything in my current immune system. Then they took some cells from my little brother. They transfused his new cells into me. I have my own DNA in my skin and hair. My blood cells are my little brother’s DNA,” Ananya explains.
Ananya had her transplant in July 2023 at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas but suffered with graft versus host disease – when the body’s existing immune system battles the new cells. She was able to come home in August 2023, and her immune system is now building itself up. Once built up, her blood type will then show up as her brother’s – O negative.
“Your blood type changes. You can develop the same allergies a lot of the time as your donor,” Ananya says in her video.
The 24-year-old adds sharing DNA with her brother has given them a “deeper” connection.
“He’s my best friend. He’s the closest person in the world to me.”
Ananya is also starting medical school next fall – something she has always dreamed of.
“This has made me realize what kind of doctor I want to be. I’m really excited to use my passion for that and impact people through medicine,” Ananya says.
“Hearing the immense struggles my best friend was going through and not being able to help her was very tough,” her brother Chaitanya adds.
“Being Ananya’s stem donor was a no-brainer for me. Through her treatment, I was always looking for ways to support her, and this seemed like the ultimate way to do that. Sharing DNA with Ananya is super interesting to me. The crime scene scenario is pretty funny. Luckily, despite all her talk, Ananya is a law-abiding citizen.”
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South West News Service writer Emma Dunn contributed to this report.