Genetic Love Match? Dating Sites Try DNA Tests

MSNBC, November 12, 2009

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Some genetic testing companies are promising to match couples based on the DNA testing, touting the benefits of biological compatibility.

The companies claim that a better biological match will mean better sex, less cheating, longer-lasting love and perhaps even healthier children.

“How many dating services can you think of where they can suggest you might have better children?” said Eric Holzle, founder of ScientificMatch.com, one of the first online dating sites to use DNA.

Holzle wouldn’t reveal membership numbers, but GenePartner, a Swiss company that works with matchmakers and dating sites, has tested more than 1,000 people, according to chief scientific officer Tamara Brown. Some were already coupled and took the test out of curiosity.

The GenePartner Test is $99, and will be offered at the dating site sense2love.com when it relaunches next month.

The idea is that people tend to be attracted to those who have immune system genes that are dissimilar from their own.

Biologists say the HLA genes of the immune system–which are responsible for recognizing and marking foreign cells such as viruses so other parts of the immune system can attack them–also determine body odor “fingerprints.” And people tend to be attracted to the natural body odors of those who have different HLA genes from their own.

In one study, Swiss biologist Claus Wedekind found that women who were not taking hormonal contraception preferred the natural scent of men whose immune systems were the most different from theirs.

‘Ridiculous’ idea, expert says

But don’t put too much faith in this, experts said.

Dr. Rocio Moran, medical director of the General Genetics Clinic at the Cleveland Clinic, called the idea “ridiculous,” and said the science of attraction is too complex to look at only a few genes.

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When a random sample of married people was studied, their immune systems were not that different, said Patrick Markey, associate professor of psychology at Villanova. {snip}

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Rachel Herz, author of “The Scent of Desire,” who teaches olfaction and human behavior at Brown, believes the science is legit but thinks prospective matches should swap T-shirts and sniff.

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Holzle was not able to point to any success stories. He said his site tends to attract people who are concerned about privacy and has not done a good job tracking members once they leave. GenePartner did not respond to a request to speak to its customers.

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Singles who sign up for ScientificMatch.com get a welcome box in the mail containing a skin cells-swab kit. The person mails the kit to the lab, with results in approximately two weeks, then uploads a profile and photos and takes a personal values test. The site also conducts a background check.

Matches are generated based on the DNA, values and preferences.

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