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You Have a Doppelganger and Probably Share DNA With Them, New Study Suggests

The old friends who live in Atlanta are not related. Your ancestors don’t even come from the same part of the world. Malone’s family hailed from the Bahamas and the Dominican Republic. Chasen’s family hailed from Scotland and Lithuania. Nor are they the result of some deep, dark family secret. However, they look surprisingly similar. It’s not just her brown hair, beards and glasses. It is also the structure of her nose, her cheekbones and the shape of her lips.

“Michael and I have known each other for a long time and it’s all been a source of a lot of fun for us because over the years, we’ve been mistaken for each other all over Atlanta,” Chasen told CNN’s Don Lemon. “There were some really interesting situations that came up just because people thought we were the other person.”

The two look so similar that even facial recognition software had a hard time telling them apart from identical twins. But now scientists think they can explain what makes them look so similar, and could explain why each of us may have doppelgangers.

People who resemble each other but aren’t directly related still appear to have genetic similarities, according to a new study.

Among those with these genetic similarities, many also had similar weights, similar lifestyle factors, and similar behavioral traits, such as smoking and education levels. That could mean that genetic variation is related to physical appearance and can also potentially influence some habits and behaviors.

Scientists have long wondered what creates a double of a person. Is it nature or nurture? A team of researchers in Spain tried to find out. Their results were published in the Daily Cell Reports on Tuesday.

dr Manel Esteller, a researcher at the Josep Carreras Leukemia Research Institute in Barcelona, ​​Spain, said he has worked on research with twins in the past, but for this project, he was interested in people who look alike but have no family connection. real. going back nearly 100 years.

Genevieve Kirouac and Dominique Sevigny

Michael Malone and Charles Hall Chasen

Art leads to science.

So, he turned to art to answer a science question. He and his co-authors recruited 32 look-alikes who were part of a photography project. “I do not look like!” made by a canadian artist, Francois Brunelle.

The researchers asked the couples to take a DNA test. The couples completed questionnaires about their lives. The scientists also subjected their images to three different facial recognition programs. Of the people they recruited, 16 pairs had similar scores to identical twins identified using the same software. The other 16 pairs may have looked the same to the human eye, but the algorithm didn’t think so in one of the facial recognition programs.

The researchers then took a closer look at the participants’ DNA. The pairs that the facial recognition software said were similar had many more genes in common than the other 16 pairs.

“We were able to see that they resemble humans, in fact they share several genetic variants. And these are very common among them,” Esteller said. “So they share these genetic variants that are related in a way that they have the shape of the nose, the eye, the mouth, the lips and even the bone structure. And this was the main conclusion that genetics brings them together.”

These are similar codes, he said, but it’s just by chance.

“In the world right now, there are so many people that eventually the system is producing humans with similar DNA sequences,” Esteller said. This was probably always true, but now with the internet, it’s much easier to find them.

Beatriz Nogueira and Bruna Soares DaCosta

Joshua Corrigan and Francisco Costela

Other factors at play

When they looked more closely at the pairs, they determined that other factors were different, he said.

“That’s why they’re not completely identical,” Esteller said.

When the scientists looked more closely at what they call the epigenomes of the doppelgangers that looked the most alike, there were bigger differences. Epigenetics is the study of how environment and behavior can cause changes in the way a person’s genes work. When scientists looked at the microbiome of pairs that looked the most alike, they were also different. The microbiome is the microorganisms (viruses, bacteria, and fungi too small to see with the naked eye) that live in the human body.

“These results not only provide insight into the genetics that determine our face, but could also have implications for establishing other human anthropometric properties and even personality characteristics,” the study said.

The study has limitations. The sample size was small, so it’s hard to say that these results would hold true for a larger group of similar people. Although the researchers believe their findings would change in a larger group. The study also focused on couples who were largely of European origin, so it’s not clear if the results would be the same for people who come from other parts of the planet.

dr Karen grip pediatrician and geneticist at Nemours Children’s Health whose research referenced in this paper, said the study is really interesting and validates much of the previous research.

Ignacio Contreras and Antonio Carranza

Elisabeth De Freitas and Meira France Desranleau

Application of science in the real world

Gripp uses facial analysis software in his work with patients who may have genetic conditions to assess his patients’ facial features that may suggest certain genetic conditions.

“It’s a little bit different from the study, but it really points in the same direction that changes in a person’s genetic material affect facial structures, and that’s really the same underlying assumption that was used in this study as confirmed, in contrast to other things, like the microbiome, didn’t seem that relevant,” Gripp said.

As for the nature versus nurture question raised by the study, Gripp thinks both are important.

“As a geneticist, I firmly believe that nature and genetic material are very important to almost everything, but that doesn’t mean that nurture is just as important,” Gripp said. “For every person to be successful in the world, there are so many contributing factors and the environment is so important that I don’t think it’s one or the other.”

Melissa Thorkilsen and Andrea Chalon

Andre Ravary and Jean Aumais

a potential problem

The study, he said, also notes that there are still limits to the accuracy of facial recognition software. While several cities concerned about privacy issues and misidentification issues have enacted rules banning or restricting local police from using facial recognition software, the federal government and some local law enforcement have been using it more frequently.
A federal investigation 2021 found that at least 16 federal agencies use it for digital access or cybersecurity, 6 use it to generate leads in criminal investigations, and 10 more said they planned to expand its use.
That’s how it is most commonly used at airports Some companies use it to help make hiring decisions. Some landlords have installed it so tenants can enter buildings. Some schools use it to take attendance and monitor movement in public spaces on college campuses.

“If you translate this study into the real world, that shows you a potential pitfall that digital facial analysis tools could misidentify someone,” Gripp said.

Although the technology has been improving, in past studiestechnology has already proven to be far less accurate by identifying people of color, and several black men, have been wrongfully arrested due to facial recognition.

“If you think about facial recognition software that often opens up computer screens and things like that, misidentification is possible. So I think this has also taught us something very important about facial analysis tools,” Gripp said. .

But the study seems to suggest a conclusion. At least physically, we may not be so unique.

“I think all of us right now have someone who looks like us, a stunt double,” Esteller said.

While some would prefer to be singular in their looks, Malone, who happens to be friends with his stunt double, is heartened by the fact that he’s not alone in his looks. His similarity to his friend has made them closer, and he thinks that if more people knew how similar they are to each other, maybe they too could find things in common, especially in this polarized world.

“It made me realize that we are all connected,” Malone said. “We are all connected because humanity probably starts with one small thing.”

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