YOU MIGHT HAVE one of those friendships where it seems like no matter where you go, someone’s asking if you and your friend are related.
You might assume it’s just the sense of closeness you and your friend exude that gives them that impression, and it probably is. But researchers looked into the connections that friends share and discovered that we actually share more genetic similarities with our good friends than we do with total strangers. Guess our bodies are smarter than we give them credit for, huh? Next time someone inquires about you and your bestie, there’s nothing to stop you from exclaiming, “No we’re not sisters, but we ARE cousins of the 58th degree! Thanks for noticing.”
The study, which was published in an American scientific journal entitled Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, concluded that the individual genomes of close friends are more alike than one would assume. The similarities found in DNA markers come in around 1%, making those people the equivalent of something like 4th cousins (not 58th). It would be easy to assume that the findings can be explained by assuming that most people are drawn to others of a similar race or from the same town. The group of almost 2,000 people being studied as part of a heart-disease project, however, wasn’t a very ethnically-diverse group at all and were all from the same area; when the scientists took ethnicity and geographical location out of the equation, they found that participants still stuck close to those they shared the most DNA with, as opposed to total DNA “strangers.”
When examining just which DNA markers close friends shared, the ones linked to the sense of smell kept popping up. It seems that genetically-matched friends smell things the same way.. So maybe the fact that you and your best friend both swoon over the smell of fresh-cut grass, pencil shavings and jasmine flowers are your genes subtly saying “What up, cuz?” to each other. While only white people of mostly Italian descent (the participants of the above study) have been studied on this topic, researchers are confident that checking our DNA markers related to smell will lead us to discovering the closest thing we’ve got to a bona-fide “friendship gene.”
Strangely, it also appears that we pick out friends based on slight differences in our immune systems. The benefit of this might be a protective mechanism to keep you and your buddy from getting each other sick all the time. It is still unclear how we know this detailed info about our friends without consciously being aware of it, but it could be something similar to how we sniff out the pheromones of potential baby daddies — I mean, boyfriends.
Why couldn’t they teach us this kind of stuff in high school biology?