Results at last – the good news is after a few weeks of analysis we have finally got some news to tell you on the NICE GENES experiment, the bad news is it wasn’t exactly what we had predicted – welcome to the highs and lows of science research!
What were we hoping to find?
With the assistance of researchers in Trinity, Science Gallery developed an experiment NICE GENES as part of our LOVELAB exhibition. In this experiment we aimed to find out if someone’s genetic make up really could have an influence on who they fancied.
Olfactory perception is very important in choosing a mate. There are a number of ‘self identifying antigens’ or genes that differ among the population. The Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) contains a number of genes that are related to the immune system. There is considerable evidence that females select their mate based on odour and can detect if males are HLA similar or dissimilar. Females tend towards selecting mates with dissimilar HLAs. Couples with dissimilar HLAs have been shown to have better sex lives and children with more robust immune systems – see reference papers below.
The NICE GENES experiment depends on a method called Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). This laboratory technique amplifies DNA in vitro (in a test tube) so that one can look at specific genes of interest for each individual. PCR is a very sensitive technique and its success is dependent on a balance of multiple reagents and conditions, which are different for various genes of interest. These conditions and reagents were investigated as part of the ‘Nice Genes’ experiment.
Our aim in the experiment was to take a DNA sample from participants and run a PCR to analyse specific genes from the HLA gene family which provide instructions for making a group of related proteins known as the human leucocyte antigen complex. HLA genes have hundreds of identified versions (alleles) each of which is given a particular number e.g. HLA-B27. To run a PCR for each and everyone of these variations would be an intensive and expensive process. This is because you need a unique primer for each of the genes which has to be designed and developed to link to the specific gene. Following a review of the literature we decided to look at specific HLA types, which had existing primers already developed to see if these could distinguish different HLA types from the samples provided by the participants of NICE GENES. The following primers for HLA antigens were used in our research procedure A*01, A*02, A*03, B*07, B*08.
Unfortunately there was no significance variance between the samples we tested and we were unable to find any definitive results from the experiment. This was in part due to the crude extraction method of DNA from saliva samples and partly due to the constraints of our research procedure and the limited availability of primers.
Thank you for your interest in our NICE GENES experiment we have included a few references for you below. If you are a budding researcher, have some ideas or would like to ask us more, you can contact us at email@example.com
Havlicek, J and Craig Roberts, S (2009) MHC-correlated mate choice in humans: A review Psychoneuroendocrinology 34, 497 – 512
Craig Roberts, S and Little, Andrew C. (2008) Good Genes, complimentary genes and human mate preferences Genetica 134: 31 - 43