A photographic work that aroused the interest of science

Charlie Chasson and Michael Malone met in Atlanta in 1997, when Malone played in Chassen’s band. They quickly became friends, but they didn’t notice what others around them saw: Two men can pass for twins.

Malone and Chassen are is doubled double. They look very similar, but they are not related. Your immediate ancestors do not come from the same part of the world either; Chassen’s ancestors come from Lithuania and Scotland, while Malone’s parents hail from the Dominican Republic and the Bahamas.

The two friends, along with hundreds of other unrelated look-alikes, have found a . take part in Photographic project François Brunelle, a Canadian artist. The series of photographs, “I am not a stuntman!”, was inspired by Brunel’s search for his own stuntman, the English actor. Rowan Atkinson.

The project was successful in social networks and other areas of the Internet, but it also attracted public attention. Scientific Those who study genetic relationships. Dr. Manel Esteller, a researcher at the Josep Carreras Leukemia Research Institute in Barcelona, ​​had previously studied the anatomical differences between identical twins and wanted to examine the contrast: People who look alike but are not related. “What is the explanation of these people?” He asked.


Garrett Levenbrück and Roniel Tesler are part of the Doppelgnger project, with photographs by François Brunelle, which has aroused scientific interest.

In a study published Tuesday in the journal Cell Reports, Esteller and her team recruited 32 pairs of similar-looking people from Brunel’s photographs. DNA study and answer questions about their way of life. The researchers used a facial recognition software Measure the similarities between the faces of the participants. Sixteen of these 32 pairs had a total score of identical twins analyzed by the same software. The researchers then compared the DNA of these 16 look-alike pairs to see if their DNA was similar to that of their faces.

Esteller found 16 couples who ‘really’ looked alike Shared many more genes than the other 16 pairs This software is considered less uniform. “These guys really look alike because they share important parts of the genome, or DNA sequences,” he said. People who look alike have more genes in common” would seem like common sense, but never proven”Told.

However, DNA alone does not tell everything about our makeup. The experiences of us and our ancestors influence the activation or deactivation of genes, which scientists call the epigenome. And our microbiome, a microscopic co-pilot made up of bacteria, fungi and viruses, is also influenced by our environment. Esteller found that while the couple’s genomes were similar, their epigenome and microbiome were different. “Genetics unites them, and epigenetics and microbiome separate them”Told.


Charlie Chasson and Michael Malone are part of the Doppelgnger Project, François Brunel’s photographs that have inspired scientific research.

This discrepancy tells us that the pairs look similar. more to do with their DNA than the environment they grew up inThis surprised Esteller, who expected to see a greater impact from the environment.

Since the shape of lookalikes is more attributable to shared genes than shared life experiences, this means that, to some extent, their similarities are simply Coincidentally, in favor of population growth. After all, there are only a few ways to make a face.

“There are so many people in the world now that the system is repeating itself,” Esteller says. “It’s not unreasonable to assume that you are too” Maybe you have a similar look.

Ana María Sánchez and Catherine Romero are part of the Doppelgnger project, the photographs of François Brunel that triggered a scientific investigation.

Ana María Sánchez and Catherine Romero are part of the Doppelgnger project, the photographs of François Brunel that triggered a scientific investigation.

Esteller hopes the study results will help doctors diagnose diseases in the future: if people have enough similar genes to look alike, they can Some even share tendencies towards illness.

“When it comes to genetics, there seems to be something very strong that two individuals who look alike have similar profiles in the genome,” said Olivier Element, director of the England Institute for Precision Medicine in Weill. Cornell Medicine in New York. who did not participate in the study. Discrepancies between DNA predictions and people’s actual appearance He said they can alert doctors to any problems.

Esteller also said there may be links between facial features and behaviors, and the study results may one day help by providing forensic science. A sketch of a suspect’s face in a crime known only from DNA samples. However, Daphne Martashenko, a postdoctoral fellow at the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics who was not involved in the study, urged caution in applying these findings to forensic science.

“We have already seen many examples of how existing facial algorithms have been used to reinforce racial bias in areas such as housing, staffing and criminal profiling,” Martashenko said, according to the study. . “Raises several important ethical considerations.”

Karen Chu and Ashley Wong are part of the Culver City project, doppelgnger, which features photographs by François Brunelle, which have inspired scientific research.

Karen Chu and Ashley Wong are part of the Culver City project, doppelgnger, which features photographs by François Brunelle, which have inspired scientific research.

Despite the potential risks of tying people’s appearance to their DNA or behavior, Malone and Chesson said a similar project and knowledge We can all have a secret twinYes, it’s a way to bring people together. The two are still friends after 25 years; When Chassen got married last week, Malone was the first person he called. While not everyone with similar DNA shares this bond, Malone said he sees Brunel’s photography project as “another way to connect us all in the human race.”

New York Times

Translation: Alyssa Cornelli

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Michael E. Marquez