Incidently, the UK Telegraph just ran a (rather generic) article titled ‘DNA gene testing will screen out lovers’: Couples will soon be able to choose their life partner solely based on the compatibility of their genes instead of through love, a scientific conference has heard. See
Second, it is well known that a number of often fatal genetic diseases disproportionately strike Ashkenazi Jews (Jews descended from ancestors in Eastern and Central Europe). These diseases are autosomal recessive genetic disorders, which means that both the mother and the father have to have the gene for the disease in order for their child to have the disease.
In 1995, Tay-Sachs disease was the only genetic disease prevalent among Ashkenazim for which screening was available. Today, tests are available for 19 chronic conditions that are known as Jewish genetic diseases. Testing capabilities have risen dramatically: just one year ago, individuals could be tested for 16 conditions; in 2009, the number was 11. Among those conditions, in addition to Tay-Sachs, are cystic fibrosis, Gaucher disease, Canavan diseas, Niemann-Pick disease, Fanconi anemia, and Gaucher disease.
Organizations dealing with Jewish genetic diseases are intensifying their efforts to educate Ashkenazim of childbearing age about the need to be screened for all 19 conditions with a single blood test, and to update tests that have already been conducted.
Therefore, look for instance to
Finally, I guess you should be ‘aware’ of
1. ScientificMatch: they got lot of attention when they launched – their website is down now (!?), but you find some info here:
The Economist had a good article describing their principle (going back to a T-shirt sniffing experiment). The actual genetic translation however has not been proven yet. See
An excerpt: In his original study, a Swiss researcher, Dr Wedekind recruited female volunteers to sniff men’s three-day-old T-shirts and rate them for attractiveness. He then analysed the men’s and women’s DNA, looking in particular at the genes that build a part of the immune system known as the major histocompatability complex (MHC). Dr Wedekind knew, from studies on mice, that besides fending off infection, the MHC has a role in sexual attractiveness. It changes odours in ways the mice can detect (with mice, the odours are in the urine), and that detection is translated into preferences for particular mates. What is true for mice is often true for men, so he had a punt on the idea that the MHC might affect the smell of human sweat, as well.
It did. Women preferred T-shirts from men whose MHC was most different from their own. What was more, women with similar MHCs favoured the use of similar commercial perfumes. This suggests that the role of such perfumes may be to flag up the underlying body scent rather than mask it, as a more traditional view of the aesthetics of body odour might suggest.
That makes evolutionary sense. The children of couples with a wide range of MHC genes, and thus of immune responses, will be better protected from disease. As the previous article suggests, that could be particularly important in a collaborative, group-living species such as humanity. Moreover, comparing MHCs could be a proxy for comparing kinship, and thus help to prevent inbreeding.