Sunday, 22 September, 2019

New Study Finds Many Genes Influence Sexuality

An emotional gay couple celebrate in Dublin after a referendum in which Ireland voted overwhelming in favour of same-sex marriage Scientists Debunk the Idea There Is a 'Gay Gene' That Determines Same-sex Attraction
Sandra Phillips | 31 August, 2019, 16:58

Ganna and an worldwide team of scientists examined data from more than 470,000 people in the United States and the United Kingdom to see whether certain genetic markers in their DNA were linked to their sexual behaviour.

Between two to 10 percent of the world's population at any given time report having same-sex partners, according to research cited by the authors. The environment in which a person evolves during his / her life also plays a role. They found that common genetic variants account for between 8 percent and 25 percent of same-sex sexual behavior.

Reference: "Large-scale GWAS reveals insights into the genetic architecture of same-sex sexual behavior" by Andrea Ganna, Karin J.H. Verwe, Michel G. Nivard, Robert Maier, Robbee Wedow, Alexander S. Busch, Abdel Abdellaoui, Shengru Guo, J. Fah Sathirapongsasuti, 23andMe Research Team, Paul Lichtenstein, Sebastian Lundström, Niklas Långström, Adam Auton, Kathleen Mullan Harris, Gary W. Beecham, Eden R. Martin, Alan R. Sanders, John R.B. Perry, Benjamin M. Neale, and Brendan P. Zietsch, 30 August 2019, Science. When the researchers scanned the genomes of people who had reported same-sex sexual behavior, they found many variations in the genome that were associated to varying degrees with participants' self-reported behavior.

The findings were published in the journal Science.

The results of the study reinforce the extreme complexity of sexual behaviour and attraction, Dr Zietsch said. There may be some proof of a correlation between left-handedness and same-sex attraction, and left-handedness has each genetic and environmental influences.

Interestingly one of these markers was from a region of DNA that has genes related to our sense of smell, and another was associated with male-pattern baldness. Vilain, chair of the Department of Genomics and Precision Medicine at George Washington University, noted that the study's authors placed all participants who had reported even one same-sex sexual event into the same group. He points out that the findings are tied only to whether participants had at least one same-sex sexual experience, which is different from identifying as gay or queer.

Researchers are now considering whether a person's attraction to men and to women should be considered separate from each other, with the two characteristics shaping the person's overall sexual identity and desires, Ganna said.

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"We discovered that the Kinsey Scale, which really places individuals on a continuum from basically exclusively opposite-sex partners to exclusively same-sex partners, is really an oversimplification of the diversity of sexual behaviour in humans", Ganna said. Even genetically identical twins often have completely different sexual preferences.

Studying the potential genetic underpinnings of certain traits is no easy task: "For a study of complex trait genetics, where we are looking at millions of geneticmarkers each with small effects, we need a large sample size; for such large groups, detailed information about individuals' sexual behaviors often isn't available".

"It underscores that there is an element of biology and it underscores that there's an element of the environment", Neale said.

And while genes may only be part of the puzzle, the authors did find some connection between sexual orientation and other personal aspects that merit further study. Some subsequent studies had similar results but the new one found no such link.

Scientists have examined the genetics of almost half a million people who have reported for themselves whether they have experienced sexual behaviour with a gender of the same sex.

"While the findings are important for our understanding of human sexuality, we shouldn't be terribly surprised by them", Associate Professor Smith said.

The study was a collaboration among scientists including psychologists, sociologists and statisticians from the United States, United Kingdom, Europe and Australia.

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