- daisy rodriguez
- BBC NewsWorld
Agnes was on the train when a man approached her and started talking to her about topics she had no idea about.
It didn’t take the subject long to realize that “she wasn’t who she thought she was.”
And it wasn’t long before he told her he knew his doubleGerman term to refer to doubles.
Agnes was encouraged to meet her train partner’s friend and through Facebook she saw Ester. Then they met in person.
“We clicked right away. Not only our appearance, but also our personalities are similar.”
For Esther it is “strange and wonderful see a part of you in another person“.
But there is something in particular that makes it “very special: that Agnes and I are so similar in character and interests.”
“We have the the sameYes tasteYes: music, clothes, tattoos”.
When Ester was 32 years old and Agnes 28, they posed for François Brunelle, who shared the story of the two Dutch women with BBC Mundo.
The Canadian photographer recalls that when he saw them he was “really happy to see how much they resembled each other”.
And it is that for many years the artist has depicted people, in different parts of the planet, who are not related and who are very similar.
This is how he photographed them in 2015:
Agnes and Ester are just two of hundreds of participants in Brunelle’s project”I’m not a lookalike!” (“I’m not a lookalike”).
Perhaps you have already seen it on social networks, because you have also come across one of the hundreds of articles on the Internet with photos of non-famous people who resemble public figures or celebrities who look very similar.
One of those comparisons that has become popular in recent years is that of the founder of the Ferrari team, the Italian Enzo Ferrari, and that of the German footballer of Turkish origin Mesut Özil, which we also dare to present to you as you saw the beginning of this article.
What Brunelle may not have imagined when she started her project is that it would become the foundation of a groundbreaking scientific research.
He was contacted by a group of experts from the Josep Carreras Leukemia Research Institute in Barcelona, who are trying to understand the physical similarities between individuals who have no family ties.
Manel Esteller, director of the institute and professor of Genetics at the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Barcelona, led the research and told BBC Mundo about the fascinating findings.
A closer look
In August, the results of the study, which began in 2016, were published in the journal Cell reports.
with the title Similar looking people identified by facial recognition algorithms show genetic similarities (“Look-alike people identified by facial recognition algorithms show genetic similarities”), the authors explained that, at the molecular level, the study focused on “characterize random people who objectively share facial features“.
They are the individuals that, because of their “high similarity”, we popularly call unknown doubles or twins.
The researchers contacted Brunelle and it came out of her project 32 volunteer couples.
The photos of their faces were analyzed with three facial recognition software, such as those used at airports, by the police or to unlock mobile phones, for example.
“These are programs that tell you how similar one face is compared to another,” Esteller explains.
For example, in twins, the similarity detected by these programs reaches 90%-100%.
In the study, they were used to determine the degree of “similarity” of the couples’ faces and found “a high similarity rate“.
“The number of couples correlated by at least two programs was very high (75% agreement in 25 out of 32),” the institute said in a statement.
According to Esteller, that’s “very close to the human ability to recognize identical twins.”
In half of the pairs, the three programs found correlations, i.e. 16 extremely similar pairs.
The researchers analyzed the participants’ “biological material,” something that was a bit “complicated” to obtain because they were “in different countries,” the doctor said.
For example, DNA samples from saliva were collected and analyzed.
“We are studying this biological material, the genome and two more components: the epigenome, which is like the chemical markers that control DNA, and also the microbiome, which is the type of virus and bacteria we have.”
the genome, genetics, was what finally brought “couples together”.while epigenetics and the microbiome – aspects related to the environment – kept them at bay.
“What the study shows is that the most important thing in these cases is that (the pairs) have similar genetics, a similar DNA sequence, and (the similarity) is not because they have families in common, there is no relationship between them” .
“It’s because ultimately, certainly, chance created identical regions or sequences of DNA from these people.”
In fact, the researchers went back “ages and ages” into the volunteers’ family history and “we have not found a relative common between them”.
The sequences referred to by the expert determine the formation of the characteristic aspects of our face.
The fact that two people are so similar is “like buying a lottery”: it is very difficult for you to win the prize, but the windfall may come.
“Those two people, despite not being related, they end up having genetic variants that give them the same shape.”
That is, certain features of their DNA are similar.
Imagine that both people share a variant that makes their eyebrows fuller, another that makes their lips thicker, another that makes them have a certain type of chin, and so on.
“As a whole all those variants make their faces look alike.”
“Similarity can be expressed as a percentage and has precisely to do with the different degree of sharing of genetic variants.”
beyond the physical
This study is groundbreaking in genetics because, as Sarah Kuta points out in the journal Smithsonian, while “it seems obvious that people with similar facial features would also share some of the same DNA, no one had scientifically proven it until now“.
But there is also something that goes beyond the physical.
The volunteers were asked to fill out a questionnaire with more than 60 questions about their life habits “to see if they were comparable, and in some cases there were similarities,” the professor said.
“Other physical aspects such as weight, age, height, etc. were also analyzed.”
The study found that of 16 very similar couples, “many had similar weight and analysis of their biometric factors and Lifestylealso showed that there were similarities“.
“Behavioral traits such as smoking status and education level were correlated in similar pairs, suggesting that shared genetic variation is not only related to physical appearance, but may also influence overall habits and behavior.” states the statement.
One of the aspects that Esteller wants to explore with this research is its possible application in biomedicine.
“We have identified genes and their variants that are important in determining the shape of the face and thus of the nose, mouth, forehead, ears, and that They can also be involved in pathologies“.
“From a face we could partially derive the genome of that person and that could be useful for screening, the first detection of hereditary diseases.”
The goal would be to keep an eye out for any mutation that predisposes her to developing a certain disease to help her avoid it.
matter of numbers
The researchers acknowledge that the studio is smallbut they believe it has the “right statistical power,” so they’re confident their findings won’t change if it’s done in a larger group.
“With the human population now at 7.9 billion, it is increasingly likely that these similar recurrences will occur,” Esteller said in the statement.
“Analysis of a larger pool will yield more genetic variants shared by these special individual pairs, and may also be useful in elucidating the contribution of other layers of biological data to defining our faces.”
So, is it very likely that we have a doppelgänger?
“A person who is 100% identical to one of us is difficult, but a person who is identical to us 75%, 80% probably walking around already because there are already a lot of people in the world and that’s why we’re close to the number of DNA pieces,” the doctor told BBC Mundo.
So the fact that there are many similar genes and there are millions of people could mean that the odds are on our side if we find someone similar to us.
After years of photographing strangers who look alike, Brunelle is fascinated.
“I think people are the same everywhere, once you get to the surface.
We are one species no matter what we look like!”
And if you want to see the full photos of Ozil and Ferrari, we’ll show them here:
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