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Face Genes

October 4, 2012

Researchers have identified the first five genes linked to facial structure.



Genes for faces.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

For the first time, researchers have identified specific genes that affect the shape of our faces. The work comes from the Visible Trait Genetics Consortium, an international team looking for the genes behind physical appearance. According to forensic biologist Manfred Keyser of Erasmus University in the Netherlands, their goal is to develop tools for forensic scientists. For instance, the ability to sketch a crime suspect’s face just from a DNA sample.

MANFRED KEYSER (Erasmus University, The Netherlands):

This can be useful information in police investigations, especially in those cases where the police have no idea who the sample donor may be.

Keyser’s team found five genes that subtly influence specific features — like a millimeter’s distance between the eyes. There may be hundreds or thousands of other relevant genes. Still, the findings represent a significant breakthrough in decoding an extremely complex trait.  I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.

Our faces differ in a variety of ways from person to person. That's how we tell each other apart. Now, scientists have identified five genes that influence facial shape among Europeans. (Jupiter Images)