Lookalikes share DNA and personality traits, says study

According to The New York Times, Esteller had previously studied the physical differences between identical twins, and he wanted to examine the reverse: people who look alike but aren’t related. “What’s the explanation for these people?” he wondered.

Esteller and his team set out to characterize, on a molecular level, strangers that objectively share facial features. And to do so, they recruited human doubles from Brunelle’s photographic work. The team obtained headshot pictures of 32 lookalike couples and determined an objective measure of likeness for the pairs using three different facial recognition algorithms.

“Our study provides a rare insight into human likeness by showing that people with extreme lookalike faces share common genotypes, whereas they are discordant at the epigenome and microbiome levels. Genomics clusters them together, and the rest sets them apart,” Esteller said in a statement.

The work was published in the journal Cell Reports.

The participants also completed a comprehensive biometric and lifestyle questionnaire and provided saliva DNA for multiomics analysis. “This unique set of samples has allowed us to study how genomics, epigenomics, and microbiomics can contribute to human resemblance,” Esteller said.

Overall, the results revealed that these individuals share similar genotypes, but differ in their DNA methylation and microbiome landscapes. All three algorithms clustered half of the lookalike pairs together. Genetic analysis revealed that nine of these 16 pairs clustered together, based on 19,277 common single-nucleotide polymorphisms.

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