DNA evidence could soon be enough to help law enforcement draw up photofits of criminal suspects, thanks to a new genetic discovery.
Five genes have been found to determine human facial shapes, says an international team.
"These are exciting first results that mark the beginning of the genetic understanding of human facial morphology," says professor Manfred Kayser from the Erasmus University Medical Center in the Netherlands.
MRI images were used to quantify the metrics of face shape ahead of the genetic study
Lead author Manfred Kayser from the Erasmus University Medical Center 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."
In the study, published in the Public Library of Science’s journal PLoS Genetics, Kayser and colleagues studied nearly 10,000 individuals, using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of their heads together with portrait photographs to map facial features, from which facial distances were estimated. They then conducted a genome-wide association (GWA) study designed to search for small genetic variances that occur more frequently in people with particular facial types.
Using these methods, the team was able to discern five separate genes associated with facial shapes: PRDM16, PAX3, TP63, C5orf50, and COL17A1.