You and Your Doppleganger Share More Than Looks

Study shows that unrelated look-alikes also share genes and even behaviors
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 25, 2022 12:25 PM CDT
You and Your Doppleganger Share More Than Looks

Studies of twins are common. Studies of unrelated people who could pass for twins, not so much. But in Cell Reports, researchers dug deep into the phenomenon of dopplegangers—look-a-likes who are aren't actually related—and discovered that they share far more than superficial appearances, reports Science Alert. An examination of their DNA shows that pairs deemed to be "ultra" look-alikes by facial-recognition software share what the researchers found to be a "striking" number of genes. What's more, these dopplegangers were more likely than non-dopplegangers to share traits such as weight, height, habits such as smoking, and even educational levels, per Smithsonian.

That unrelated people with similar physical appearances share genetic traits may not be a huge surprise, but no study had documented it previously. The research also suggests that DNA trumps environmental factors more than expected in determining how we look, per Science. In the study, the dopplegangers' microbiomes and epigenomes were different, and both of those are strongly affected by environment, explains the New York Times. "The results were that these lookalike humans had similar genetic sequences and are therefore like virtual twins, while their epigenetic and microorganism flora profiles differentiate them,” study author Manel Esteller of the Josep Carreras Leukemia Research Institute in Spain tells Gizmodo.

Esteller's research drew on Canadian artist François Brunelle's long-running exploration of dopplegangers via his "I'm not a look-alike!" project, with the study's subjects selected from there. The findings could theoretically be used to help with medical diagnoses in the future, though a researcher not involved with the study warns in the Times of the potentially murky ethical aspects of such a push. Given the more than 7 billion people in the world, Esteller says the seemingly increasing number of dopplegangers out there is not a huge surprise. "The system is repeating itself," he says. Or as Kate Golembiewski of the Times puts it: "There are, after all, only so many ways to build a face." (Read more discoveries stories.)

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