The team, based at the University of Bern, wanted to know if a protein called human leukocyte antigen, or HLA, is important to attraction-by-scent. HLA, which helps the immune system detect foreign invaders, also influences our personal scent and captures genetic differences between us.
The reason for focusing on HLA is to do with finding a mate that is different from us. A study from 2016 found that attraction and desire to mate was heightened between people whose cells, or genes, were different from their own. That makes sense: mating with someone genetically different from ourselves is advantageous in terms of survival. Because HLA encapsulates such genetic differences, it makes sense to ask whether the scents we find attractive are somehow tied to HLA.
The results add to the mystery of attraction. The researchers found that the scents men found appealing were completely unrelated to HLA. The men were definitely attracted to certain body odors and not others, but their preferences showed no tie to HLA. Meaning? Maybe finding women who are genetically different isn’t that important for men.
[Editor’s note: Read the full study]
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