Many things go into the mix to make a healthy relationship: Trust, understanding, a shared sense of humor and a love for all things Joss Whedon (well, that might just be me), a sense of shared values, a need to grow and learn together and a dose of of genetic data. No, I don’t mean the sticky kind, I mean the genetic data that lies inside your DNA, the messy vortex of genetics that comprise your being, from eye color to skin type and penchant for chocolate.
Well, some of what makes you “you” is now being quantified, and researchers have identified certain genetic markers that make couples work well together.
The first study was in 1995 by Professor. Dr. Wedekind at the University of Bern in Switzerland, and looked at attraction and pheromones. Wedekind found that couples with “dissimilar HLA genes” tend to have longer, happier relationships and potentially healthier children.
So what is HLA?
HLA stands for “Human Leukocyte Antigen." It's the gene that controls the immune system and pheromones, among other things in the body. Some companies have tried to commercialize this, notably Swiss company GenePartner, but it has yet to gain mainstream acceptance.
In late 2013, Instant Chemistry was formed, a Toronto science based company that “aims to commercialize the science of attraction.” CEO Jeremy Bluvol used DNA samples to detect HLA in people and used this to help pair them up with the correct partner. He doesn’t do the matchmaking, instead he sends the DNA kits and match details to matchmakers who use their own parameters to decide if the people would make a good couple.
“Online dating was a taboo five years ago,” Bluvol saud. “Genetic testing will be a good thing in the dating industry, but there are always fears about new technology.”
DNA dating needs more than just a high score since values, shared life goals and religious backgrounds are every bit as important. But the DNA test adds an extra element of discovery.
“We have our proprietary algorithms,” said Bluvol. “We don’t claim to be a matchmaker, we are a scientific company simply doing genetic analysis.”
Susan Trombetti from Exclusive Matchmaking isn’t sure. “I think there are other factors that weigh heavier than genetic matchmakers, companies matching you based on genetics. If you have an ivy league education and you have the same genetic match that makes you compatible with a crack addict on the street, well… Sociological factors have more of an impact on the matchmaker process; things like education, economic status - those things matter more.”
Trombetti doesn’t discount the science entirely though.
“Scientific DNA matchmaking might count for the elusive spark that people don't understand. Why they feel it and why they don’t. However, I think where you are in life, your experience far outweigh your DNA compatibility.”
Linda Miller, is head of Misty River, a matchmaking company who uses Instant Chemistry as part of their process.
“I thought this was a unique opportunity,” she said. “We do paper matching which is great, but sometimes people who should be a perfect match on paper, with similar background and all, have no chemistry, and they say 40 percent of chemistry is based in biology and pheromones.”
Miller still uses traditional matchmaking techniques though.
“We do all the matching first. We first match with the things you’re looking for and then go in the Instant Chemistry system and sort those selected into descending order with biology and then use that as the next step to find the next person,“ she shared. “We thought if we could match people and come closer to someone attracted to closer and quicker would be better for clients and meet people more attracted to each other.”
Bluvol is hopeful that more people will adopt this system. “Research suggests that 40 percent of physical attraction can be attributed to genetic compatibility,” he said. “It’s hard to find someone, as the dating pool is so big. We can help.”
But not everyone agrees that matchmaking with DNA is useful.
Neuroscientist Larry Young, principal investigator in the Laboratory of Social Neurobiology at Emory University has published the book, The Chemistry Between Us, Love, Sex, and the Science of Attraction, and feels very strongly about the issue of genetic matchmaking.
“I think that matching people by personality types or interests may be very useful. However, I do not believe that any service that claims to use genetic information, or any estimation of neurochemistry (based on personality or genotype) has any basis in reality,” he said in a National Center for Biotechnology Information report.
So, take the DNA dating test with a grain of salt, and remember there’s more to it than purely genetics.
And as for the Fusion team? Well, we took three couples who had been together for three months, four years, and fifteen years. We had them tested to see if their DNA results suggested they would be a compatible match. Watch the video to see what happened!
Image: Flickr/ Drinks Machine