A new study reveals you have a DNA doppelganger. Charlie Chasen and Michael Malone were often confused for one another when they were both out and about in Atlanta on their own.
In Atlanta, there is a group of long-time friends who have never been related to each other. They don’t even share a common ancestry or geographical origin. Malone’s ancestors originated in the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas. The Chasens’ ancestors originated in both Scotland and Lithuania.
They also didn’t originate from some hidden family history. Still, there is a remarkable resemblance between the two. It’s more than just the fact that they all have brown hair, beards, and spectacles. The nose, cheekbones, and lip shape all play a role.
Michael and I go way back, and it’s all been a lot of fun for us because, over the years, we’ve been confused for each other all around Atlanta,” Chasen told CNN’s Don Lemon. People often mistake us for the other party, leading to some hilarious and surprising outcomes.
Both of them are practically indistinguishable from each other; a facial recognition program had trouble doing so. But now researchers think they know what makes them seem alike, which may provide light on the possibility that we all have doppelgängers.
A recent study suggests that people who share a similar appearance but are not blood relatives still share genetic similarities.
Many of the people who had these genetic characteristics were also of comparable heights, weights, and even habits like smoking and level of schooling. That may imply that there is a connection between genetic variation and outward appearance and that such variation may also play a role in shaping certain patterns of behavior.
For a long time, researchers have pondered the mystery of what makes a doppelgänger appear. Does upbringing matter more than genetics? In Spain, scientists set out to answer this question. On Tuesday, the results were published in Cell Reports.
Researchers at the Josep Carreras Leukemia Research Institute in Barcelona, Spain, were interested in people who appear alike but have no genuine family link dating back almost 100 years, according to Dr. Manel Esteller, who has previously worked on research involving twins.
The arts are the gateway to the sciences.
That’s why he used art to solve scientific puzzles. The Canadian artist François Brunelle’s photo project “I’m not a look-alike!” provided him and his coauthors with a pool of 32 persons who looked similar but weren’t identical twins.
Researchers requested that the tandems participate in DNA analysis. To learn more about each other, the pairings completed in-depth questionnaires. Moreover, the researchers ran their photos through not one, but three separate facial recognition software systems.
They found 16 sets of recruits with results that were statistically indistinguishable from those of identical twins discovered by the same method. Although the human eye could have concluded that the other 16 sets were visually indistinguishable, an algorithm used in at least one facial recognition program disagreed.
Scientists then examined the genetic material of the subjects. When compared to the other 16 pairs, the pairs that facial recognition software suggested were most similar and shared a significantly larger number of genetic characteristics.
“We were able to see that these genetically similar persons share more than just a striking resemblance. Plus, they’re extremely widespread among them “As Esteller put it. “Consequently, they have similar features such as bone structure, eye and nose shape, mouth and lip shape, and so on due to shared genetic variations. That their compatibility is based on shared genetic ancestry was the major finding.”
He claimed that the only reason these codes look alike is pure chance.
“There are so many people in the world right now that the system is producing humans with comparable DNA patterns,” Esteller added. This was probably always the case, but with the advent of the internet, it’s never been simpler to track them down.
There are additional elements involved.
According to him, further examination of the couples revealed yet further distinctions.
That’s why they aren’t an exact match,” Esteller explained.
A depth examination of the so-called epigenomes of the most similar twins revealed even more dissimilarities. The field of study known as epigenetics examines how a person’s environment and actions might alter the expression of their genes. Even the microbiomes of the most similar-looking pairings were shown to be distinct by the researchers. These microscopic organisms, such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi, that call the human body home are collectively referred to as the microbiome.
The study’s findings “may have consequences for the establishment of other human anthropometric attributes and perhaps personality characteristics,” it stated.
The research is not without flaws. It is challenging to generalize these findings to a wider group of look-alikes due to the tiny sample size. Although researchers expect to see different results with bigger sample size. Because the study only included European-American couples, it is unknown if the findings would hold true for people of different racial or ethnic backgrounds.
A physician and geneticist at Nemours Children’s Health, Dr. Karen Gripp, whose work is cited here, found the findings to be very intriguing and confirmed much prior work.
Putting scientific principles into practice in the real world.
Gripp utilizes face analysis software in her practice to evaluate patients for possible hereditary problems by looking for telltale signs in their facial features.
“It’s a little bit different from the study, but it truly indicates in the same direction that changes in a person’s genetic material affect the face structures,” said Gripp, adding that the study validated the same basic idea.
Gripp has mixed feelings about the nature vs. nurture debate that this study raises.
“As a geneticist, I truly believe in nature and the genetic material being highly crucial to practically everything,” Gripp added. “I don’t think it’s one or the other; I think there are so many aspects, and the environment is so crucial, that each person has a chance to succeed in the world.”
She also noted that the study shows that facial recognition software has not yet reached full accuracy. However, the federal government and certain local law enforcement have been increasingly adopting facial-recognition software despite regulations prohibiting or restricting its use in numerous cities due to privacy concerns and misidentification problems.
At least 16 federal agencies use it for digital access or cybersecurity, 6 use it to develop leads in criminal investigations, and 10 more stated they planned to increase their use by 2021, according to a government probe.
It is also more popular in airports. It is used as a hiring criterion by some businesses. Some building entrances now have this system installed at the request of residents. It is used by several educational institutions for things like monitoring campus traffic and taking attendance.
When applied to the real world, “this study shows you a possible hazard that digital facial analysis techniques could misidentify somebody,” Gripp added.
Though advancements have been made, studies have revealed that facial recognition is much less effective when recognizing individuals of color, and some Black males have been falsely detained as a result of the technology.
“Misidentification is theoretically feasible when using facial recognition software, such as that used to open computer screens and similar applications. What we’ve learned about facial analysis techniques from this is probably just as crucial, so “said Gripp.
However, there is at least one possible inference from the study. Physically, at least, maybe we’re not that different from each other.
It’s possible that “everyone right now has somebody that looks like them, a double,” as Esteller put it.
Malone feels comforted by the notion that he is not alone in his appearance, despite the fact that many others would rather be unique in their appearance. They’ve grown close because of the ways in which they’re alike, and he thinks that the world would be a better place for it if more people realized how much in common they shared with one another, especially in the current divisive climate.