It appears that science has detected the genes that tell when you will first have sex.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge found that a gene pattern – apart from related social and cultural factors – could predict the age at first sexual intercourse. Surprisingly, these same genes are linked not only to risk-taking behavior, but also other related factors such as how many children one will end up having.

The team identified 38 gene variants associated with age at first sexual intercourse. Several of these gene variants were situated in or near genes previously linked to brain development and neural connections, and uncovered associations with other reproductive factors such as number of children and age at first childbirth.

Dr. John Perry, lead author and senior investigator at Britain’s Medical Research Council, says these genes act on the timing of physical maturity during childhood and contribute to natural personality differences in people.

“One example is a genetic variant in CADM2, a gene that controls brain cell connections and brain activity,” says Perry, revealing the connection of the gene with a greater likelihood of maintaining a risk-taking personality, having one’s first sexual encounter at an earlier age, and having a higher lifetime number of children.

According to the authors, they were able to calculate for the first time the “heritable component” to age at first sex.

“[T]he heritability is about 25 percent, so one quarter nature, three quarters nurture,” he explains in a Guardian report.

In addition, the team pinpoints a genetic variant that appeared to relate red hair color and freckled skin with women – but not with men – to losing virginity later than other people.

Genetic influence in earlier timing of puberty is also another finding. Early puberty – often stemming from poor nutrition and, consequently childhood obesity – was associated with increased risk-taking attitudes, lower educational attainment, and, in women, higher mortality rates.

Previous studies by the same team also presented links between early puberty and enhanced disease risk, including diabetes, heart disease, and some forms of cancer.

The researchers implemented a genome-wide association study, probing all 20,000 genes in the body. They used three separate databases: samples from over 120,000 males and females obtained from Britain’s Biobank, Iceland’s population-wide gene database of 241,000 individuals, and almost 21,000 women participating in the Women’s Genome Health Study in the United States.

Psychiatrist Dr. Alicia Smith from Emory University believes, however, noted of the non-genetic aspects such as the social or environmental factors of age at first sex.

According to her, this goes beyond the start of biological capability and closer to cultural and socioeconomic elements that one cannot easily account for in genetic research.

The findings were discussed in the journal Nature Genetics.

Photo: MD Saad Andalib | Flickr

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