When married couples tend to look alike, it isn’t a coincidence but may be related to the tendency to marry someone with the same ancestry. It is a fact that married couple with common ancestry tend to share similar genes, new research shows.
This trend can have important effects on the genetics of different populations, report Ronnie Sebro of the University of Pennsylvania, in a study published in the journal PLOS Genetics. According to the study, the genetic similarities are enough to bias genome studies.
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Until recently, most people picked a spouse from within their local community, and that person often had the same ancestry. Over many generations, created a genetic structure in the population could have the potential to influence the results of genetic studies.
Researchers explored genetic similarity between married couple across multiple generations within a U.S. population from three generations of white people, an ongoing examination of heart health in the residents of Framingham, Massachusetts, which began in 1948. The analysis revealed significant selection bias among the 879 married couples.
Study participants with Northern European, Southern European and Jewish Ashkenazi ancestry were married couples likely have the same background. Though the selection bias diminished with each successive generation.
They also showed that the matching patterns caused married couples with same ancestry share similar genes to be more genetically similar to each other as expected and that the genetic structure created by these tight coupling patterns in the population has decreased over time.
The findings from this study reflect demographic patterns and how they have changed during the past 60 years in Framingham, Massachusetts. Genetic similarity within a population can be important to consider in genomic studies because it can lead to false positives when identifying gene regions that are associated with a disease, and affect estimates of the degree to which a disease is passed on through one’s genes.