Thu, Sep 12, 2013 - Page 9 News List

In order to find your perfect match, just follow your nose

Research suggests that people unconsciously select their partner by sniffing out their ‘compatibility genes.’ For couples whose genes are different, the combination may give their children a genetic advantage. So did Tim Dowling follow his nose when he met his wife 20 years ago? They took a DNA test to find out

By Tim Dowling  /  The Guardian, LONDON

“It’s a different sort of common,” I say. “This is science.”

Marsh produces my wife’s report. I immediately spot that we share one allele — the aforementioned HLA-A32:01:01. However, this bit of matching type does not mean we are not one another’s type.

“That’s the only one you share,” Marsh says. “You’re quite different, so if the whole sniffing-your-mate-out is to be believed, then you’ve managed to sniff out a good mate.”

It is not a terribly romantic revelation, but it is a relief. As he explains to my wife that her haplotypes are rarer than mine — “much, much rarer,” she says — Marsh can barely conceal his excitement.

You do not need to be a scientist to see that he is withholding some information that pleases him.

“Interestingly, there’s also a B27 knocking around there,” he says.

I know from reading Davis’ book that having a B27 gene increases your risk of contracting ankylosing spondylitis, but I am pretty sure my wife has not got ankylosing spondylitis.

“Occasionally we come across people with types we’ve never seen before,” Marsh says.

Oh goodness, I think. Not her.

“You have a new B27 allele that we’ve never seen before in the world,” he says. “We’ll be sequencing you properly, your sequence will go in the database, and we’ll give it a new number.”

My wife beams.

“I feel like I’ve won a rosette!” she says.

She instantly forgets why we have come — to test our compatibility. She is no longer interested in that little piece of good news. On the car ride home she is insufferable.

“I can’t wait to tell everyone I’ve got an unknown — what have I got?” she asks.

“An allele,” I say.

“A brand new allele,” she says. “Yours are all common, whereas mine is unique, like me.”

“That’s great,” I say. “Good luck finding a match for your next bone marrow transplant.”

Later I feel bad about saying this, because she is my wife, and she is unique. I smelled her out of thousands.

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