German scientists have discovered a gene of altruism

June 22, 2011

German scientists have discovered a variant of a gene, the carriers of which have an increased predisposition to help other people, reports Phys.Org.

Nearly 100 students took part in the research, performed in the University of Bonn. All of them were offered to memorize the assortment of numbers and then to reproduce them as accurately as possible. Every student received five Euro for participation in the experiment.

After that they were offered to take the money or donate a partial sum for charity. The decision was taken on the terms of voluntariness and anonymity. However, the researchers knew what sum of money was in a box for donations and could calculate the contribution of every participant.

All students were taken a swab from the oral cavity for the DNA analysis before the examination. In particular, the researchers determined which one of two variants of COMT gene is present in the genome of the participant. This gene encodes the similarly – named enzyme (cathecol - o – methyltransferase, KOMT), which is responsible for such neurotransmitters as dopamine and noradrenaline utilization.

The COMT gene has two variants: COMT-Val and COMT-Met , differentiating only by the code “letter”. The number of each variant carriers is approximately the same.

It turned out that participants with COMT-Val gene donated two times more money on the average than the owners of COMT-Met gene. According to Martin Reuter, the Professor's of Psychology opinion, it points at the clear connection of altruistic motives with the hereditary information.

The obtained results are supported by the earlier carried out Israeli twins study, which revealed the dopamine influence on altruistic tendencies.