Pheramor is a startup that promises users to find a soul mate based on the analysis of their genetic heritage. But the doubts are many.
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Forget Tinder, OkCupid, Badoo and the like. Stuff now obsolete, by tourists of online dating. The new app frontier to find the soul mate has suddenly moved forward. Between microscopes and laboratory benches, to be precise: the perfect match is all about genes.
At least that’s what the founders of Pheramor, a new US startup that aims to pair their users based on the compatibility of their genetic heritage, promise. The project, to be launched in the United States at the end of February, follows the wake of the business launched by companies such as 23andMe and Ancestry, which provide services of so-called personalized genetics, analyzing the biological samples of its customers to provide information on their origins or – with much more caution – to possible predispositions to diseases and disorders.
Pheramor’s operation is simple. For just over fifteen dollars, the startup sends its customers a kit to collect a sample of saliva. The biological material is then sequenced to identify 11 genes that are part of the so-called major histocompatibility complex (Mhc, from the English Major Histocompatibility Complex), a group of genes responsible for encoding proteins on the surface of cells that help the immune system to recognize pathogens. Why these genes (which the startup defines, quite improperly, “attraction genes”)?
The idea comes from a study published in 1976 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine: an experiment carried out on laboratory rats suggested that male specimens tend to choose females with Mhc genes different from their own, recognizing them according to the smell. The reason behind this choice lies in the fact that a greater mixing of the Mhc genes could guarantee greater genetic diversity in the offspring, making it more resistant to various diseases.
The results of the 1976 experiment were subsequently corroborated by another study conducted in 1995 on humans. In this work, a group of women had been invited to smell different shirts worn by different men and to express a sexual preference based on the smell of clothing: it turned out that women tended to choose shirts worn by men with greater genetic difference than their.
Different genes common interest
In any case, genetic diversity is not the only factor on which Pheramor suggests the soul mate to its users. In fact, with the sequencing of DNA, the startup also supports more “traditional” methods, including the compatibility of information extracted from social media (common interests, habits, lifestyle): users, in particular, can download an app in which a percentage of compatibility is expressed based on both the difference of genes and the similarity of interests.
“I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of bringing personalized genetics into everyday life,” says Brittany Barreto, Chief Security Officer and co-founder of Pheramor. “We want everyone to be able to understand the scientific notions behind our idea, and use them to make more informed decisions. To be as honest as possible: we do not guarantee to find a soul mate, but probably your first date will be better than the others “.
It should be stressed, however, that not everyone within the scientific community is really sure of the solidity of the idea underlying Pheramor. Speaking to Smithsonian Magazine, for example, Tristam D. Wyatt, an expert in pheromones (a group of substances issued by the body that appear to be related to the solicitation of sexual interest by others) at the University of Oxford, cited the results of International HapMap Project, a major research project that has crossed genetic data and sentimental status of thousands of people around the world: “We could expect genetic diversity to have a very significant effect, that is, that individuals are really brought to choose your partner based on differences in genes related to the immune system, but the data say more. A research group, analyzing the information, has discovered that the connections between people happen more or less casually, at least compared to genetic diversity “. Maybe it’s really like that. But you can try to pretend nothing and play the genetic card anyway to break the ice. Success, however, is not guaranteed.