In the past year, The Genetic Link has explored how genetics is linked to disease, drug response, bone marrow transplants, and even weight loss. I am constantly amazed at the number of new discoveries that link our genes to different aspects of our lives. This past month, I was surprised once again. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with a researcher who is doing some novel work in an area that most people would not associate with genetic research.
Martie Haselton, Ph.D. (in the photo to the right), directs the Evolutionary Psychology Laboratory at the University of California Los Angeles, where they investigate mate choice, female sexuality, and relationships from an evolutionary perspective. Dr. Haselton is known for her much-publicized research on the impact of biology on relationships. Some of her most recent publications include:
- Lieberman, D., Pillsworth, E.G., & Haselton, M.G. (in press). Kin affiliation across the ovulatory cycle: Females avoid fathers when fertile. Psychological Science.
- Durante, K.M., Li, N.P., & Haselton, M.G. (in press). Changes in women’s choice of dress across the ovulatory cycle: Naturalistic and laboratory task-based evidence. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
- Bryant, G.A., & Haselton, M.G. (2009). Vocal cues of ovulation in human females. Biology Letters, 5, 12-15.
Dr. Haselton’s current research project uses the Oragene Self-Collection Kit. Her study explores a variety of questions that have to do with sex and gender in order to understand the genetic links to attraction and mate choice. She hopes to learn if (and how) our genes play a role in attraction and relationships. To learn this, she is looking at the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) which is a large genomic region that encodes MHC molecules. MHC genes make molecules that enable the immune system to recognize invaders. Therefore, the more diverse the MHC genes of the parents, the stronger the immune system of the offspring.
Her project involves testing couples to see if they fall in love more quickly or are more intensely attracted to each other when they have dissimilar MHC genes. The couples involved in the research come to her UCLA lab where Dr. Haselton interviews them in order to understand their relationship and learn the information relevant to her study. These couples provide a saliva sample using Oragene so that she can determine if the level of similarity in their MHC genes can predict their relationship. She is collecting samples from a few hundred couples from the UCLA campus.
Dr. Haselton chose to use Oragene for this study because it preserves a large amount of DNA and offers non-invasive sample collection. The long-term storage at room temperature was also beneficial for Dr. Haselton as she realizes the data collected for this study might be more interesting down the road as the relationships of these couples evolve.
So what’s next for Dr. Haselton? She has already been collecting samples for some time now and needs participation from approximately 100 more couples over the next year to complete the project. When the DNA collection and analysis is complete, she hopes to publish her results. The timing of publication depends on the results of the DNA analysis. If the results show a clear link between a couple’s relationship and the level of similarity of their MHC genes, she expects to publish in approximately a year. If the results are not obvious and require further study, it could take an additional year for publication.
In the meantime, everyone at DNA Genotek looks forward to learning more about this unique area of genetic research.