Researchers have developed a technique that can create an image of a person's face from their biological material.

In the world of police work, getting an idea of what a wanted criminal looks like is often based on eye-witness accounts, which are notoriously unreliable. Sketch artists have upgraded from pencils to computer-generated images, but still there is a lot of leeway for mistake. Soon, however, police could create a 3D portrait of a criminal from their DNA.

According to New Scientist, researchers at Pennsylvania State University and the Catholic University of Leuven (KUL) in Belgium have collaborated to develop a technique that uses genetic analysis to build a computer composite of what a person looks like. The team captured images of 600 volunteers from a variety of ethnic backgrounds to assess genetic variants in faces. They mapped out 7000 points on the scans and assessed how sex, race and genes affect facial structure. They then tested each of the participants for 76 genetic variants in genes that are known to cause facial abnormalities. They found 24 variants in 20 different genes that can help them predict face shape. While this is only the first phase of the study, New Scientist had one of their writers volunteer their DNA, and the resulting 3D image is startlingly accurate (see header image). What's more, the researcher hope that with further work, they will be able to map early humans faces to give a more accurate view of what we used to look like.

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