Actually, it’s all pretty innocent. A Swiss company called GenePartner has launched its dating service designed to match men and women based on the correlation of genes that express the HLA (human leukocyte antigen) molecules. And why? Well, there is evidence that people tend to choose a partner on the basis of their HLA-dependent odortype. (Matching of HLA antigens is also important for organ transplantation.)
More about the concept behind the service:
The GenePartner project was inspired by a famous study performed by Prof. Dr. Wedekind at the University of Bern in Switzerland. In this study, Prof. Dr. Wedekind recruited female volunteers to smell T-shirts worn by men for three consecutive days and rate them for attractiveness. He then analyzed the particular part of DNA that codes for HLA (human leukocyte antigen) molecules and found that women preferred T-shirts from men whose HLA molecules were most different from their own. Sensing and classifying the HLA genes is something our bodies do automatically and subconsciously.
HLA molecules play a central role in controlling the activation of immunological effectors during an immune response and are therefore essential for immune resistance. A greater variety in HLA genes offers a greater variety in possible immune responses. In terms of evolution, this makes perfect sense: children of couples with a higher variety in their HLA genes (and hence, immune responses) will have better protection from a greater variety of diseases. Simply put, this means that their body has more weapons to use in its defence against a disease. An important additional effect is that comparing HLA genes can help identify kinship and prevent potential inbreeding.
In 2003, the GenePartner team decided to take this discovery one step further and see if there are specific patterns of HLA genes that “attract” each other more. In collaboration with the Swiss Institute for Behavioural Genetics, we tested a large number of individuals (both romantically involved couples and persons not in a relationship) for their HLA genes. The results were astounding and led to the development of a formula that combines the diversity factor studied by Prof. Dr. Wedekind, together with several other evolutionary factors researched and developed by the Swiss Institute for Behavioral Genetics.
The GenePartner formula measures the genetic compatibility between two individuals and makes an accurate prediction of the strength of their basis for a long-lasting and fulfilling romantic relationship.