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The health of one mouse can be influenced by the genetic makeup of its cage mate, according to a study out in PLOS Genetics yesterday.

Researchers led by European Bioinformatics Institute's Oliver Stegle examined how the genotypes of one individual might influence the phenotype of another individual. Using lab mice, they studied how these social genetic effects contribute to 100 organismal phenotypes and genome-wide gene expression.

They report that genetic variation in unrelated cage mates could explain as much as 29 percent of the variation seen in anxiety, wound healing, immune function, and body weight.

"The take-away message here is that we need to pay attention to the genetic makeup of social partners, since in some cases it affects health more than the individual's own genes," first author Amelie Baud from EBI tells Live Science. As an example, she says that if one partner is a natural night owl and the other is not, an illness the morning person has could be worsened by that lack of sleep.

"Although today's study was carried out in mice living together, it provides food for thought about how individuals can be influenced by the genetic makeup of the people in their lives (and vice versa)," adds Stegle in a statement.