Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Emily Singer

A View from Emily Singer

DNA-Based Dating

Sexy smells: Online dating gets weirder.

  • July 22, 2008

No luck with Match.com or EHarmony? Online daters now have a new way to screen potential dates. Two companies offer genetic analysis that purports to find your perfect love match based in part on the smell of his or her sweat.

The genetic tests for both companies–ScientificMatch, based in Naples, FL, and GenePartner, based in Zurich, Switzerland–are based on the same study, performed more than a decade ago in Switzerland. Women were asked to rate the odor of men’s sweaty T-shirts, and then both sexes were tested for the genotype of several genes within the major histocompatibility complex (MHC), a family of genes that is crucial for immune function. Women were more likely to prefer the sweaty smells of men whose MHC genes were most different from their own.

While it sounds bizarre, the finding does have a potential evolutionary explanation. According to an article from the Economist,

The children of couples with a wide range of MHC genes, and thus of immune responses, will be better protected from disease… . That could be particularly important in a collaborative, group-living species such as humanity. Moreover, comparing MHCs could be a proxy for comparing kinship, and thus help to prevent inbreeding.

Does it really work for finding a date? Probably not. Subconscious feelings about a person’s smell likely make only a minor contribution to each person’s attractiveness equation.

AI is here.
Own what happens next at EmTech Digital 2019.

Register now
More from Rewriting Life

Reprogramming our bodies to make us healthier.

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

    Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

    10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

    Ad-free website experience

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.