September 14, 2012

Scientists find genetic key to the face

Just five genes may determine what kind of face you have, a study has found.

The research could lead to ways of producing police "mugshots" from DNA traces at crime scenes, experts believe.

Scientists used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans and portrait photographs to map facial features.

These were then matched against DNA variants in almost 10,000 individuals.

The study identified five regions of the genetic code associated with different facial shapes.

They suggested the involvement of five specific known genes. One, PAX3, has been linked to a minor disfigurement in which the nose is unusually broad.

Another, PRDM16, is believed to play a role in cleft palate and other facial defects.

The research was published on Friday in the online journal Public Library of Science Genetics.

Lead scientist Professor Manfred Keyser, from the Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, said: "These are exciting first results that mark the beginning of the genetic understanding of human facial morphology.

"Perhaps some time it will be possible to draw a phantom portrait of a person solely from his or her DNA left behind, which provides interesting applications such as in forensics. We already can predict from DNA certain eye and hair colours with quite high accuracies."

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