Researchers have identified five of the genes that shape a person’s face, work that could help scientists better understand facial abnormalities like cleft palate and someday might even help forensic investigators determine what a criminal suspect looks like from crime-scene DNA.
Researchers previously knew that genetics played a large role in determining face shape, since identical twins share DNA. However, little was known about exactly which genes are involved. Three genes were thought to have roles in the arrangement of facial features, and the new research confirmed their involvement. It also identified two other genes.
“We are marking the beginning of understanding the genetic basis of the human face,” said lead researcher Manfred Kayser, head of the forensic molecular biology department at Erasmus MC-University Medical Center Rotterdam, Netherlands.
The study is part of the work of the International Visible Trait Genetics (VisiGen) Consortium, a group of six researchers who want to understand the genetics behind visible human characteristics.