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Changed For Good? Person’s Health Affected By Roommate’s Genes

Update Date: Jan 27, 2017 07:24 PM EST

A person's interactions with other people can influence his health, behavior and well-being and vice versa. However, researchers at the European Bioinformatics Institutes are demonstrating that all these social influences have a genetic basis. According to their study, a person's health is affected by their roommate's or social partner's genes.

The study, published in the journal PLOS Genetics, is the first to quantify the social genetic effects to multiple biomedical traits like anxiety, wound healing, immune function, and body weight. The basis of the study is the fact that most of an individual's traits are controlled by genetics so that the researchers can examine the effects of the social environment.

To do so, the researchers investigated how an individual's phenotype, or the acquired traits, is affected by the genotype or the genetic make-up of the individual's roommate or social partner.

In order to find the genetic variations, the researchers used a gray strain, and a black strain in mice. The mice were grouped together in different combinations as unrelated roommates. The researchers observed and examined social genetic effects by measuring the mice's anxiety, body weight, anxiety, and mood in both in the mice's own and the genotype of the mice's cage mate.

The results of the study found that up to 29 percent of the variations in anxiety, body weight, wound healing, and immune function is due to the genetic makeup of the mice's cage mate. Using a third strain of mice, the researchers also found the same results as the one found with the two strains of mice which became each other's cage mates.

Although the researchers used in the study were mice, the findings of their study are applicable to studying genetics in human beings. It means that social genetic effects play a critical role when it comes to the influence it has on individuals and their social partners and vice versa.

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