You May Have More In Common Than Just Looks With Your Doppelganger

If you've ever seen a photo of someone who looks a lot like you but isn't related — also known as your doppelganger — it turns out you and this person may have far more in common than just looks.

People who have a strong resemblance will often share common genetic variants that cause them to have similar observable traits, according to a new study published in the journal Cell Reports. The study involved 32 pairs of virtual twins that were featured in a series of photos by Canadian artist François Brunelle, who has been assembling lookalike photos of people all across the world since 1999. The researchers applied a series of facial recognition algorithms as a method to ensure objectivity and acquired saliva from the participants for DNA. Participants also provided information about their lifestyle and physical traits. Based on their analysis, researchers determined that all pairs had specific genotypes, or DNA sequences in common, along with some similar behavioral qualities, such as smoking habits and education. The virtual twins also shared certain attributes, such as weight and height.

The study did have its limitations, such as a small sample of participants that primarily only included Europeans. However, the results of the study could eventually have a meaningful impact on forensic medicine and genetic testing, explained senior author Manel Esteller of the Josep Carreras Leukemia Research Institute in Spain (per HealthDay News).

Why genomics may one day be important for public health

Genomics is a relatively new branch of science that continues to evolve, as described by the World Health Organization (WHO). Different from genetics, which is the study of heredity and focuses on specific genes, genomics looks at all genes and investigates how they function and interrelate. Experts believe that genomics has the potential to eventually uncover new approaches to preventing and treating diseases.

The National Human Genome Research Institute explains that genomics also involves the study of serious diseases caused by complex interactions between genes and the environment, with researchers seeking to better understand why certain people may be more prone to infections or get sick from environmental factors compared to others. For instance, why does someone who eats a well-balanced diet and exercises regularly die from heart issues at 40 years old, while someone else who engages in an unhealthy lifestyle lives until 100 years old? To that end, the study of genomics also focuses on specific serious diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, among others. Further genomic research could, therefore, lead to earlier diagnoses, better intervention methods, and new treatments.