Is love in your genes?

05 December 2017

Question

Is there such thing as a perfect genetic love match?

Answer

Chris Smith had genetics expert, Patrick Short from the University of Cambridge, tap into an answer. 

Patrick - Are you trying to give me an aneurysm on air? There are a number of different services like this that have popped up on the internet especially in the last two or three years. It’s gotten now really inexpensive to sequence people’s genomes.There are tests that people have heard of like ancestry.com, 23andme, that can tell you where your family’s from. Thats fair enough, but then there are a bunch of crazy ones like genetic love match.

I saw this one in the Daily Mail at one point a couple of months ago. It’s whether your child would be good at soccer, genomics.net, and all of these are almost categorically snake oil. I worry very much about this because I think it will give genetics a bad name and make it more difficult to do actual personalised medicine and these sorts of things in the future.

Chris - Phil?

Phillip - There is a possibility of having preferred genetic things. So if you were a carrier for a particular genetic condition you would be better matched with someone who doesn’t carry that gene so there’s less chance of your offspring having those diseases.

Patrick - Yeah, absolutely right.

Phillip - So in that sense there would be favourable genetic matches.

Patrick - There’s some science around called the HLA, which is part of the genome that controls the immune system. And there’s some science around are you going to have pheromonal attraction to this person, but to the degree that it’s genetically predictable - it’s very low.

Chris - Because this is true in mice, isn’t it? If you put mice together and you give them the choice of which mate they would like, they will seek out the one which is genetically distinct and different to themselves compared with mating with say a close relative, given a choice? So they can tell.

Patrick - It very well may be that they can tell but I think, unfortunately in humans, the social structures that we exist in might be a little bit more complicated than what you could construct in a laboratory condition.

Chris - Kate?

Kate - Do any of these genetics dating services offer a service for post hoc dating. So if you start dating and you really don’t want to…

Chris - That could get iffy couldn’t?

Kate - If you don’t want to get too involved with someone who genetically you’re both recessive carriers of something really bad. Is that out there yet?

Patrick - I think carrier testing is a very legitimate thing and I think that’s one of the first things that will become mainstream because there is principled science behind it. But maybe you’re onto something; it’s a good way to kind of tell someone we have to break up because the app says that we’re not a genetic love match and it makes it easier for everybody.

Chris - Gets you off the hook a little bit?

Patrick - Yeah.

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