Marriage gets gene‘tick’

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The youth of Hyderabad nowadays prefer to date and marry good-looking partners as it is not only more fun to live with attractive people, but because they want their children to look good. With good looks being the passport to success even in kindergarten, young men and women cannot be blamed for wanting to have cute babies. Ours is a skin-deep age.

Thanks to this new fad, which has puzzled even marriage counselors, astro charts and family prestige have been thrown out of  the window. Instead, the genetic kundali is in, for it’s the genes which mostly determine your looks.

And as usual, the youth cite lives of celebrities to prove their point. Abhishek Bachchan, they say, is as tall as his father Big B, and Saif Ali Khan and Soha have inherited the looks of their mother Sharmila Tagore, and Lourdes is as beautiful as Madonna.

So, they vouch, it is common sense that children will look good if both parents look good. So don’t be taken aback if the girl you are going to marry holds forth on chromosomes and heredity when you meet her the next time. What she means is that she likes your dimples and wants her kids to have them too.

“If your spouse is good-looking, your children will be attractive too, this is the latest funda,” says pre-marriage counselor, S.V. Nagnath. Though the truth is more complicated, their preference cannot be easily dismissed, say scientists. “Every person carries genes with characteristics called dominant and recessive,” says the senior geneticist, Dr. M.N. Khaja. “Dominant characteristics such as dimples, a full head of hair, height, curly hair and normal vision overtake recessive characters. So the dominant features of the father and mother are passed on to children.”

“Almost two-thirds of youngsters, who visit us for pre-marital counseling, do not hide their wish for having fair complexioned and good-looking babies,” says Nagnath. “Even in arranged matches, boys and girls want the would-be spouse to have   strong physique and good facial features.”

Thanks to this trend, there are new taboos. Even if the astro charts match, women shy away from marrying bald men. “Certain body features like baldness, dark complexion and short-sightedness are to genetics what Manglik dosham is to astro charts,” quips C.V. Subbaiah, a marriage counselor. Even family prestige has taken a back seat. “More than half of my clients give preference to beauty and looks, rather than money and family background,” he says.

But can you have “designer babies” that look cute by marrying a cute guy? Things are not that simple. Hark back to celebs again. Abhishek does not look much like Jaya Bachchan and superstar Rajnikanth’s daughters resemble his wife more than him. Heredity is a complicated phenomenon and scientists are still puzzling over the process of mixing of chromosomes.

A child may inherit the physical features of grandparents or even older generations. The father may be fair-skinned but the baby may inherit the dark skin of the grandpa.

In the US, some mothers-to-be sometimes opt for a test known as pre-implantation genetic diagnosis in which embryos are generated in a test-tube and the DNA is analyzed before being implanted in the uterus. This helps them avoid embryos that indicate vulnerability to certain ailments such as Huntington’s disease.

But there is no process as yet to find out if your son is going to be as tall as you. So this is not the end of the road for those who are short-sighted or bald. Like Manglik dosham can be overcome through special poojas, genetic defects too can be overcome by choosing a spouse with contrasting characteristics.

“If a girl, for instance, has night blindness, she can avoid her children having the same problem by marrying a boy with normal vision,” says Dr. Khaja. You can pick and choose carefully but do keep your fingers crossed.

How nature shuffles DNA

* One always knew that kids look like their parents. But it needed science to find out that the secret lies in the genes or genetic material.
* Genes determine all physical characteristics including skin color, eye color, blood group, height and the type and color of hair. They may even influence behavioral traits such as intelligence and talent though the jury is still out on it.
* A normal human cell carries 23 pairs (or 46) of chromosomes, made up of genes or DNA.
* Of the 46 chromosomes, two are sex chromosomes which determine the gender of the baby. The rest are autosomes that determine other features. The chromosomes of the mother and the father mix while conceiving a baby.
* Sex chromosomes are either X or Y and they determine whether the child would be a boy or a girl. If a fetus carries XX chromosomes, it will be a girl. If it carries XY, it will become a boy.
* The sex of the child is in fact determined by the father, unconsciously that is. If he contributes his Y chromosome, the baby will be a boy, and if he contributes his X chromosome, it will be a girl.
* The mother has no option, since she carries a pair of XX chromosomes and can only contribute the X chromosome to the baby.
* Since the baby contains chromosomes from both parents, it may have the physical appearance of either of them. It all depends on which of them contributes the dominant or recessive genes. And that is still a mysterious process.
* We’ve seen couples break up because one partner felt the other wasn’t good-looking enough to marry! But again, what if the kid gets genes from the wrong side?              
* An NRI aunt insisted that her daughter get married to an American so that she could have good-looking grandkids!

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