Dr. Seth Weinberg, corresponding author of the study, says: "What is exciting is that many of these associations involve chromosomal regions harboring genes with known craniofacial function. Such findings can provide insights into the role genes play in the formation of the face and improve our understanding of the causal factors leading to certain craniofacial birth defects."I think this article is awesome because it marks the beginning of the genetic understanding of human facial morphology. Perhaps this knowledge will eventually allow us to create forensic facial reconstructions of a person from the DNA left of them. The ability to connect specific genetic variants to ubiquitous facial traits can also inform our understanding of normal and abnormal craniofacial development. Their study was limited to a population of individuals with European ancestry, but it'd be interesting to analyze the genetic developmental relatedness of other worldly populations, e.g. individuals with Down Syndrome.
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
The genes for your face
A team of scientists from the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania has further advanced the understanding of how gene variation can contribute to the diversity of facial shapes and sizes. Their genome-wide association study, published in PLOS Genetics, analyzed the association between 20 facial characteristics measured from 3D images of 3,000+ healthy individuals and about one million single base pair variations called SNP's. They succeeded in identifying genetic variants that contribute to the facial morphology of a normal human. Their analysis of the study concluded that certain facial features had statistically significant associations with certain SNP's. Various traits that compose a person's face, such as nose size, facial width, the distance between the eyes, and the distance between the lips and eyes, originate from specific genetic variations. Variation in specific regions of the genome relates to the kinds of distinguishing facial characteristics that give us our unique identities, and it also explains why we share facial features in common with our close relatives than with unrelated individuals. This insight to understanding how facial shape/size is controlled by one's genes can also be useful for understanding craniofacial development and abnormalities.