Find true love in Texas

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The first question out of Asma Mirza's mouth when she makes a new acquaintance these days is, "Are you single? Often, people look at her like she's crazy. They'll ask, "What does my DNA have to do with love? According to an ever-growing body of scientific research, the answer is: quite a bit.

That's why Mirza and year-old geneticist Brittany Barreto have spent the last year huddled in their downtown Houston office, working steadily to launch the nation's first genetics-based dating app, Pheramor. Their phone-based app, which they plan to officially roll out in February, combines genetic information with data gleaned from social media posts to create user profiles. And the genes that control those ever-important pheromones can be analyzed through a simple cheek swab. Barreto first learned this as a sophomore in college, during a genetics class at Drew University in New Jersey.

And for her, the world stopped spinning for a moment as an idea was implanted in her mind.

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She raised her hand and asked, "Could I make a GeneHarmony. That's a thing,'" she said. She's just strange.

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And everyone has always been like, 'You should do it. Then last year, while finishing up her doctorate in genetics at Baylor College of Medicine, she pitched the idea of a DNA-based dating app at an accelerator program, where Mirza, who had just graduated from Duke University, was also in attendance. And I think we were like, the only women at the accelerator," Mirza said. Brittany brought in the genetics, and I have a background in expansion and capacity building - taking a project and scaling it.

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Also at the accelerator was Bin Huang, a doctoral candidate at Rice University, studying computational biology. Mirza and Baretto brought him on as Pheramor's third co-founder, putting him in charge of developing an algorithm for their idea. Mirza and Barreto are optimistic about their endeavor, but it's not a sure thing. While the Pew Research Center reports that 15 percent of American adults have used online or mobile dating apps - up from 11 percent in - there are a handful of big apps that attract the largest share of daters.

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And tapping into the online dating market isn't easy. Two dating apps that utilize DNA in slightly different, less streamlined, ways than Pheramor have ly launched in Canada, with little success. But Mirza and Barreto remain optimistic.

And when we smell pheromones, what we're actually smelling is how diverse someone's immune system is compared to our own," Barreto explained, matter-of-factly. So we're smelling each other, trying to figure out who is the best person to mate with," she continued.

It's smelling someone's pheromones from across the room, and your brain says, 'Oh my Gosh, that's the most perfect pheromone profile I've ever smelled in my entire life. I love them. When someone swabs their cheek with a Pheramor kit, the lab Mirza and Barreto work with isolates and scans 11 genes, which scientists have linked to factors for attraction.

Mirza and Barreto declined to share which exact genes they're analyzing; they'd rather not give away their algorithm's secret sauce. I won't know any of that. All I know is the 11 genes for attractions, from which I'll know who you think is hot and who you won't like. That data then he to Huang's team, and is dropped into an advanced formula, along with a variety of personality traits pulled from a user's social media profile.

So the way we for both of those is through your genetics, and then through your social media. Rather than asking users to fill out their own profiles, Pheramor will pull details from someone's profiles, like favorite bands and books. Even political affiliations. This will save time for Pheramor's target demographic - young professionals, between the ages of 18 and 44 who are constantly looking for efficiencies.

But perhaps more importantly, it will remove some of the self-reporting bias that comes with creating your own dating profile. And more than 40 million Americans rely on dating apps and websites to help them find love. But, according to a report from eHarmony. And that's not counting the people who enter such bland answers that they fail to stick out from the pack.

What does that mean? So us building the profile for users takes away the idea that someone has a standard profile that they write to put up on a dating app. Instead, it's a reflection of how you show yourself on social media.

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Pheramor hasn't officially launched yet. As of now, the three co-founders are trying to reach a critical mass of users - hence Mirza's proclivity to swab everyone in arm's reach.

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While they'd like to tackle world domination in the future, the co-founders are currently focused on hitting the 3,member mark, which is all it will take to create a viable sample size to officially launch in Houston. It's gonna cost you. And the demographics here sync perfectly with Pheramor's market: about one in three people inside the city's limits is between the ages of 25 and 44, according to data from the U.

S Census program. Additionally, the App-analytic firm SmartApp recently ranked Houston as the city with the largest saturation of dating app users in all of the U. Sound cynical? It's not meant too.

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Barreto constantly emphasizes that while data may be run in labs and on computers, the crux of Pheramor is just as romantic as an adorable meet-cute, in which someone bumps into an attractive stranger on a train, or in a coffee shop. But what if you never met that person? What if the only way you could meet them is through our app?

The way I see it, we're helping you find those missed connections. Because we're bringing those metrics for what that spark would be. And most people see that spark once or twice in their life. But if you actually knew where that comes from, maybe you'd find more sparks. By Lisa Gray. Most Popular. Michael Starghill, Jr. Michael Starghill Jr. Billionaires are in a space race, and Texas has a front-row seat.

Elon Musk brings exploding rockets, real estate to South Texas. How we got the story on SpaceX and Blue Origin.

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