Is your immune system causing partners to dump you? Manchester DNA research reveals ‘compatibility gene’

By Katja Stein

Ever wondered why that relationship just didn’t work out?

Believe it or not, it could be down to your immune system according to researcher s at the University of Manchester.

Immune system genes in our DNA – used to fight off illness and disease – may play a greater role than we thought, even acting as ‘compatibility genes’, affecting how attractive we find others.

Finding a life partner, maintaining health individuality and even problems in pregnancy may be influenced by compatibility genes, which Professor Daniel Davis discusses in his book: The Compatibility Gene.

Professor Davis and his wife have even had their own DNA analysed for compatibility as part of research for the book.

He discovered that his compatibility genes were quite rare – one group of his genes were frequently found in Europe, while the other set were common in India or Australia.

Professor Davis said: “After being pleased that my genes were quite rare – which according to those smelly T-shirt experiments would mean lots of women would like my scent – I then realised this might not be so useful if I ever needed a transplant.

“In fact the advice they gave me was: Just don’t get ill!”

As humans, we each possess a similar set of around 25,000 human genes, some of which vary from person to person, which is why we have a particular eye or hair colour.

Professor Davis’ book considers just a few genes, our compatibility genes, which vary the most between each person.

These are immune system genes, controlling how we fight disease, but recent research has shown that they may be more important than scientists once thought.

The Compatibility Gene explains how research has revealed that these compatibility genes may influence how our brains are wired, how attractive we are and even how likely we are to reproduce.

Professor Davis continued: “I’m used to writing academic papers looking at particular cells and genes but I had to write this book to highlight the wonder of this new research – take stock of the big picture – and make this fascinating new science accessible to everyone.”

The story begins in the midst of World War II, with a small band of scientific forerunners struggled to understand the mysteries of transplants and grafts, and continues to the Swiss zoologist who had people rant the ‘sexiness’ of smells from worn T-shirts, finding that the results related to our compatibility genes.

The couple sent their saliva to the Anthony Nolan Trust, a charity which helps match transplantation donors with recipients, to check out their own compatibility genes.

The tubes of saliva were bar-coded and shuffled down a series of robotic instruments that isolated the DNA and then made copies of our compatibility genes.

Small beads, each with a different piece of DNA attached, were added to a solution containing their genes.

The beads with DNA which is just right to bind to a compatibility gene are then picked out by a sensor, which reveals which version of the genes each person has.

“Overall, nobody has a better or worse set of compatibility genes: there’s no hierarchy in the system,” he said.

“The fact that we differ is what’s important; the way our species has evolved to survive disease requires us to be different.”

The Compatibility Gene by Professor Daniel M. Davis will be published on August 29.

For further information about the book, contact: Thi Dinh 020 7010 3156 / [email protected]

Picture courtesy of Charm2010 via Flickr CC, with thanks.

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