Friends are great. You share so much with them: interests, likes, perhaps even your latest crush! But now scientists are finding that best friends share much more than social and psychological traits – they even share genes!
Scientists at Yale and University of California, San Diego have found that we share a considerable amount of genetic material with our friends – close to 1% of the assembled DNA. It may seem small to many but in genetics, this value is practically off the charts! For some perspective, you also share 1% of your genetic code with your fourth cousins. This is when you share a great-great-great-grandparent. So, it looks like we seek out close friends who resemble our family.
To figure this crazy factoid out, scientists examined around 2,000 people in a racially and ethnically homogenous area. Usually, this
is not the greatest way to conduct scientific studies, but in this case it is good because it rules out a tendency to befriend people who share the same race. Continuing with the control group, they looked at around 1,300 pairs of friends and examined 1.5 million markers of gene variation within them.
Consequently it was found, the highest genetic similarity we share with our friends pertains to the sense of smell. This might explain why our friends are always in love with our impeccable taste in fragrances! On a technical front, this discovery led researchers to say that it may very well could be the sense of smell that brings people together into the same environment and thus into social contact.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, friends are more dissimilar than strangers on genetic protection from diseases. This is amazing because it is a sort of person-to-person protection against the spread of disease. So, in essence you and your friends form a combinative immune system that effectively acts as a shield against rapid spread of particular diseases within the concerned group!
What the researchers find the most interesting though, is the fact that those genes you share with your friends are evolving more quickly than other genes. So, does this mean that our social environment has the potential to speed up evolution? Well, on paper this is what it looks like. However, considerable research needs to be done in this regard to adequately prove or disprove this notion.
So, what does this significant discovery entail? That we, as individuals, are governed by some genetic code that aids in bringing us together? Or does that mean that evolution forces us together so that it can take place at a faster pace?
We will only be able to answer these questions once we have learnt a considerable deal about how our genetic code functions. As of now, we are considerably in the dark about the knowledge that is hidden away in our DNA. This remarkable molecule could be a treasure trove for all kinds of weird and eclectic things that would explain so much about the human nature.
We just have to wait and see.
by LJ Vanier