March 24, 2019

Semi-identical twins identified during pregnancy using genetic testing

01 March 2019, 09:24 | Silvia Roy

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The twins, who are identical on their mother's side but share only part of their father's DNA, are the first case of semi-identical, or sesquizygotic, twins identified in Australia. Either they are identical, meaning that a single egg fertilized by a single sperm splits and develops into two fetuses, or they are fraternal, meaning that two eggs are each fertilized by a single sperm and develop simultaneously in the womb.

"They are 100 percent identical on the mother's side and 78 percent identical [on] the father's side, so this averages out to being 89 percent identical", Gabbet told Gizmodo.

Each sperm cell contains half the father's DNA, but it is not identical from sperm to sperm because each man is a mixture of the genetic material from his parents, and each time a slightly different assortment of that full DNA set gets divided to go into a sperm.

"I think if you dressed one up as a boy or the boy up as a girl, you could pass them off as identical twins easily".

Older mothers have a higher chance of non-identical twins as they are more likely to release more than one egg during ovulation.

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Scientists understand biologically how the DNA of our mother and father mix to create an embryo (and subsequently a baby).

But what happens when two sperm make it to the same egg?

"Three sets of chromosomes are typically incompatible with life", he said in the statement.

"Some of the cells contain the chromosomes from the first sperm while the remaining cells contain chromosomes from the second sperm, resulting in the twins sharing only a proportion rather than 100% of the same paternal DNA".

However, when another ultrasound was conducted 14 weeks later, it showed she was going to have a male and a female child - which is not possible for identical twins.

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An extremely rare set of semi-identical twins has been identified in Australia-becoming only the second ever confirmed. Researchers from the University of New South Wales and the Queensland University of Technology combed through almost 1,000 cases of twins to confirm their findings.

In an analysis of a worldwide database of twins, he and his colleagues looked for other cases where sesquizygotic twins might have been wrongly identified as fraternal twins. There's an Aussie set of identical twins who are actually not identical! But doctors think something else happened in the conception of the Australian twins: the mother's egg was fertilized by two different sperm.

There is no scientific precedent for how one embryo manages to separate three sets of chromosomes, as is the case in semi-identical twins.

In the case reported in today's research, the pregnancy was identified as twins at six weeks. In that case, the twins were studied by doctors in infancy after one of them appeared to have ambiguous genitalia.

"While doctors may keep this in mind in apparently identical twins, its rarity means there is no case for routine genetic testing".

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The girl also developed a blood clot in her arm, but that's not considered to be related to the unorthodox fertilization.

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