Look around a crowded room at various people and study the shapes of their faces. Some people have long or oval shapes faces, while others have rounder or heart-shaped faces. After you study people for a while, it seems that there are similar shapes among the population the more you study people.
In writing crime fiction, I often imagine exactly what a character’s face looks like as I bring the reader through the events of the story. I do not go into great detail because I want the reader to enjoy and imagine what the characters look like in their imagination. I have often wondered what specific genes dictate face shapes.
A recent research study in genetics reported from the Netherlands, Germany, Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia have discovered five identifiable genes for five facial shapes. This study was conducted with approximately 10,000 individuals on the behalf of the International Visible Trait Genetics Consortium. They applied a genome-wide association (GWA) approach to find the DNA variants among the test group. Portrait photographs and mapping of facial landmarks were also applied to the study.
It is not surprising that three of the five genes identified were linked by other approaches in vertebrate craniofacial development. The other two genes were identified as “potentially represent completely new players in the molecular networks governing facial development”.
According to Professor Manfred Kayer from Erasmus University Medical Center in The Netherlands,
“These are the 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.”
It is amazing the scientific studies and applications that can be potentially applied to the field of forensics. Take for example, DNA left at a homicide scene that could potentially identify the face of the perpetrator. It sounds more like a page out of a science fiction novel, but it would make a great modern detective story twist.
It was unclear if scientists and researchers were working on the discovery of these genes in the United States. Whether you’re a writer, scientist, or law enforcement officer, this new application has hope and potential in the way crimes might be solved in the future.
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