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CRM Blog: Fertility Journey

Online Dating - Chemistry through Genetics. Can Gene Testing Result in the Best Match?

September 26, 2014
By Dr. Randall Loy

Is there just one perfect match on the face of the earth for each of us? Are the matching parameters of the most popular online dating services enough or is it time to go to the ultimately personal level of DNA? Could a particular gene or group of genes and their expressions determine your predisposition for relational success? If a single “perfect partner” were available in some universal genetic data base, how much would or should such a service cost? How ethical would it be to use or to withhold such genetic information if it were an accurate predictor of success in love? The questions just keep coming!

These and other “slippery slope” questions are receiving more attention in recent weeks since the launch of an easy to use genetic testing service to determine compatibility.Instant Chemistry and SingldOuthave joined forces to provide genetic matches to members. Instant Chemistry provides the genetic testing component and SingldOut in an online “D(N)Ating” service that operates under the LinkedIn networking site umbrella to provide “ultimate compatability testing.” Although not the first kids on the block with a genetic test for romantic matches, Instant Chemistry may have real, although very incomplete, science behind it. The direct-to-consumer salivary testing analyzes three Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) genes in the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) on the short arm of chromosome 6. The MHC distinguishes us from an immune point of view and is very important in organ transplantation medicine. It seems also to be important in mate selection in lower mammals, e.g., mice, where the little rodents preferentially breed with partners with different MHC genes. Research is always a matter of mice and men, however, and things are not nearly so straightforward in humans. MHC data regarding mate selection among humans are insufficient, controversial and inconsistent. If there is a link with MHC in humans, it is probably mediated by our sense of smell, in that MHC expression is related to the perception of certain compounds in body odors such as sweat.  Clearly, there may be some role of MHC genes in romantic matches but the “science” does not support commercial MHC testing for such purposes at this juncture.

Perhaps more to the point, Instant Chemistry also considers the Serotonin transporter gene (SERT gene). Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is especially associated with emotional satisfaction and the sense of well-being and the most common antidepressants function by inhibiting the serotonin transporter function. Nerve cells communicate by chemicals like serotonin which serve as messengers between one cell and another. The serotonin transporter removes serotonin from the space between nerve endings and terminates its effects.

Clinical studies have shown that changes in serotonin transporter metabolism appear to be associated with many different conditions, including depression and anxiety, romantic attraction and love, obsessive-compulsive disorder and certain phobias. Variants of the Serotonin transporter gene (SERT gene) may have greater or lesser satisfaction in romantic relationships than those with the normal SERT gene. Again, the science is woefully incomplete, with few and limited human clinical trials in this area.

Although, these two companies have attempted to add another and intriguing echelon of sophistication to online dating, the prevailing clinical data do not support their efforts. However, there are genetic tests of other sorts already offered clinically to determine carrier status for scores of relatively common to rare genetic diseases (autosomal recessive disorders offered by Counsyl or Good Start). Maybe these tests and more involved and expensive single gene testing for disease predispositions will make their way onto online dating web sites during the next years. Such highly specific and personalized genetic information has far reaching implications for more than just romantic matches. With respect to relationships and finding the right match, indeed, we are somewhere between the brief classified ads of the last century and a brave new world with perhaps too much information!

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