How Accurately Can Scientists Reconstruct A Person’s Face From DNA?
Everywhere we go we leave behind bits of DNA.
We can already use this DNA to predict some traits, such as eye, skin and hair color. Soon it may be possible to accurately reconstruct your whole face from these traces.
This is the world of “DNA phenotyping” – reconstructing physical features from genetic data. Research studies and companies like 23andMe sometimes share genetic data that has been “anonymized” by removing names. But can we ensure its privacy if we can predict the face of its owner?
Here’s where the science is now, and where it could go in the future.
Predicting hair, eye and skin color
DNA phenotyping has been an active area of research by academics for several years now. Forensic biology researchers Manfred Kayser and Susan Walsh, among others, have pioneered several DNA phenotyping methods for forensics.
In 2010, they developed the IrisPlex system, which uses six DNA markers to determine whether someone has blue or brown eyes. In 2012, additional markers were included to predict hair color. Last year the group added skin color. These tests have been made available via a website and anyone who has access to their genetic data can try it out.