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First Comes Love: The Genetics of Attraction

The Genome Company

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Fake holiday? Celebration of true love? Nefarious plot by the candy lobby to get us to buy chocolate?

Whatever Valentine's Day is to you, the date remains a popular excuse for dinner reservations, bouquet buying and, in a word: dating. And, like every sector from fitness to finance, companies are finding new ways to harness science and technology to help consumers gain an advantage in a competitive field.

Getting an Edge

Dating apps and sites have moved from the margins to the mainstream. The stats vary, but it's been reported that as many as 1/3 of modern marriages begin online. Tinder catchphrase "Swipe left/right" has become part of the lexicon. Black Mirror is even interested in examining the implications of algorithm-based matching in the excellent season 4 episode "Hang The DJ".

black mirror hang the dj
Scene from Black Mirror episode, "Hang the DJ"

The era of technologically-assisted matching is in full swing, and those playing the field know it's not about how many fish are in the sea, but how to narrow it down to the right fish.

So if people are having luck being paired based on their stated preferences, what about genetic-based matching? Right now there are a slew of companies that are lined up to take your money, offering results in dubious categories, such as "probability of attraction".

Yeah. Don't pull out your credit card just yet.

On the Scent

But wait! There is some good news out there.

For example, there's a study concluding that there's a correlation between HLA (human leukocyte antigen*) and desire to procreate. To simplify: "Humans are also able to discriminate HLA-related olfactory stimuli". To simplify further: there's some evidence out there that humans might have a nose for suitable mates.

Carrier Status

Additionally, as genetic information becomes more and more readily available, potential couples are able to consider carrier status when pairing off. Certain communities are using this info to inform conversations about starting families.

cinema veritas carrier status
Click to watch our informational video on carrier status.

Don't Hold Your Breath

It's going to be a long, long time before consumers are able to dial up their genetic compatibility the way they currently cross-reference other dating app data. If at all.  "What's your preferred major histocompatibility complex scent?" is still a ways off, so "What's your sign?" might just have to do for now. Whether you're diving headfirst into the dating pool or watching safely from your deckchair, have fun on February 14th.

 

*If you want to learn more about HLA and MHC, check out this primer from NIH.