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Wednesday
Oct152014

Your First Date: Make Sure Your Genes Fit

Getting ready for a first date involves preparations to look and feel good. It might involve a new ‘do,’ a clean shave, or fresh new outfit with a great pair of jeans that fit perfectly. But great-fitting jeans are not the only thing that people are making sure fit before their first date. People can now check that their genes fit. Yep, genes -- as in our DNA -- before going on a first date. 

Love Is In the Air

Our body smell is an important determining factor of whether someone else finds us attractive or not. In fact, I can’t think of a single person I know who is really attracted to someone they think smells bad. If anything, people remark at how good the person smells. In fact, smell is so important that a huge industry making perfumes and colognes thrives off our desire to smell good to one another. Smell is so important that women rank it higher than appearance when asked what they consider to be the single most important variable in mate choice!1

The “Smelly T-Shirt Study”

Current online dating and matchmaking allows people to find someone pretty or handsome and who likes the same things, but misses a potential factor in attraction, our smell. Our natural smell, is produced, in part, by genes called human leukocyte antigens (HLA).

There is 20 years’ worth of research on this topic, beginning with the “smelly T-shirt study” which looks at the link between HLA genes and physical attraction.2 HLA genes differ from person to person, and the study showed that the more different two people’s HLA genes were, the more likely they were to experience physical attraction. This is believed to prevent closely related individuals from reproducing.

These genes are now being incorporated by companies such as Instant Chemistry, Gene Partner, and Love Gene into matchmaking to help introduce two people who might have a better chance of being physically attracted to each other.

But it doesn’t end there.  

Feeling Emotional?

Other genes may relate to relationship satisfaction. A gene called the serotonin transporter gene, which moves a hormone called serotonin into our cells, has been linked to our responses to emotional situations. In a 13-year-long study of married couples, the serotonin transporter gene linked emotional behavior and marital satisfaction.3

Specifically, there are two versions of the serotonin transporter gene, “long” and “short.” People with the “short” version of the gene respond more strongly to positive and negative emotions than do people with the “long” version of the gene. When two people in a relationship both carry the “short” gene, facing emotional situations in their relationship can lead to emotional turbulence, which over time, can decrease relationship satisfaction.

Make Sure Your Genes Fit

Here’s how it works:

Select matchmakers and online dating websites match their clients based on social and economic parameters but then incorporate HLA genes and the serotonin transporter gene into their matching process. The DNA test is simple and secure, requiring only saliva to help their clients’ better find that someone they will have higher relationship satisfaction with and be physically attracted to. 

So when it comes to having a first date, making sure your jeans fit may be just as important as making sure your genes fit.

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1Herz, R. S. & Cahill, E. D. (1997). Differential use of sensory information in sexual behavior as a function of gender. Human Nature, 8(3), 275-286 doi: 10.1007/BF02912495

2Wedekind, C. et al. (1995). MHC-dependent mate preferences in humans. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 260(1359) 245-249 doi: 10.1098/rspb.1995.0087

3Haas, C. M. et al. (2013). The 5-HTTLPR polymorphism in the serotonin transporter gene moderates the association between emotional behavior and changes in marital satisfaction over time. Emotion, 13(6) 1068-1079 doi: 10.1037/a0033761

Sara Seabrooke
Dr. Seabrooke obtained her Ph.D. in Genetics in 2010 from the University of Toronto and completed post-doctoral training at McMaster University in 2012. While at McMaster Dr. Seabrooke was a course instructor for Genetics and ran a research project studying neuroprotective genes in the blood brain barrier. In addition to being chair of the SAB and CSO of Instant Chemistry, Dr. Seabrooke is a lead scientist at Inceptum Research and Therapeutics.

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