Can a Roommate’s Genes Influence Your Health?

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Your roommate’s genes may alter your health, according to a recent study.

In a new study, researchers found that the genetics of a mouse’s cage mate can affect its own health in a multitude of ways. Moreover, cage mates do this by influencing traits once thought to be controlled solely by an animal’s own genes, such as growth rate and the functioning of its immune system.

“The takeaway message here is that we need to pay attention to the genetic makeup of social partners since in some cases it affects health more than the individual’s own genes,” said Amelie Baud, a postdoctoral fellow at the European Bioinformatics Institute in Hinxton, England, and first author on the study.

“This is something we did not know before,” Baud told Live Science. “It means we need to stop looking at individuals in isolation and include social partners when we look at an individual’s health.”

In the new study, the researchers identified more than 40 traits in mice that a neighboring mouse’s genetic profile may influence. They found that a cage mate’s genetics contribute, on average, to about 10 percent of its partner’s anxiety level, immune function, body weight, wound-healing speed and other traits.

The findings highlight the fact that some important traits underlying health and disease appear to be beyond the individual and, instead, in the hands of one’s partner, the researchers said.

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