Sunday, January 13, 2019

How Scientists Construct Physical Traits Of Human From DNA

Every life-form is rooted in DNA that could fill the blank to reveal its physical features.
DNA phenotype technology allows scientists to reveal the physical appearance of any organism even the facial look of our common homo ancestors, Neanderthals and Denisovans by predicting the exact traits which sometimes base on genetic information collected from an old excavation that existed over many centuries ago. DNA Phenotype is a breakthrough in modern biotechnology, despite its limitations, but it is still advancing.

Wherever we go we oftentimes leave behind some bits of our DNA blueprints. Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is a molecule composed of two chains that coil around each other to form a double helix carrying the genetic instructions used in the growth, development, functioning, and reproduction of all known living organisms and viruses. DNA is a holy grail of the creation. 

The criminal intelligence community already use the DNA to predict some traits, such as eye, skin and hair color. Soon it may be possible to accurately reconstruct your whole face from these genetic traces. This is the world of “DNA phenotyping” under the subject of Recombinant DNA Technology which is an useful tool that opens a new age for modern biotechnology. With this technology, a gene or multiple genes can be identified, cut, analysed or inserted into the genome of another organism.  Research studies and companies like, Parabon NanoLabs, 23andMe and many others are pushing the borderline of science by advancing human genome project and as well as forensic tools through the power of DNA. 

The forensic DNA profiling techniques rely on “anonymous” biomarkers that match identity to a central database. With advances in genomic technology, forensic genetics is moving toward the crucial tests that can tell us much more about who you are from the fundametal core of genetic makeup.  Parabon NanoLabs, an US based biotechnology company has developed techniques called SnapShot that can predict the physical appearance of an unknown person from DNA with much accuracy. Police forces already use their services, including the Queensland police in a recent case of a serial rapist on the Gold Coast. The Parabon system is also based on a predictive model. This was developed by applying machine learning tools to their genetic/trait reference database. The company predicts skin color, eye color, hair color, freckles, ancestry and face shape from a DNA sample.


DNA phenotyping has been an active area of research by academics for several years now. Forensic biology researchers Manfred Kayser and Susan Walsh, among others, have pioneered several DNA phenotyping methods for forensics. In 2010, they developed the IrisPlex system, which uses six DNA markers to determine whether someone has blue or brown eyes. In 2012, additional markers were included to predict hair color. Last year the group added skin color. These tests have been made available via a website and anyone who has access to their genetic data can try it out. Trait predictions are being used to address a number of questions. Recently, for example, they were used to suggest that the “Cheddar Man” (the UK’s oldest complete human skeleton) may have had dark or dark to black skin and blue/green eyes.

The predictive models are mostly built on modern European populations, so caution may be required when applying the tests to other (especially ancient) populations.  Research on DNA phenotyping has advanced rapidly in the last year with the application of machine learning approaches, but the extent of our current capabilities is still hotly debated. Last year, researchers from geneticist Craig Venter’s company with a guest for Human Longevity, made detailed measurements of the physical attributes of around 1,000 people. Whole genomes (our complete genetic code) were sequenced and the data combined to make models that predict 3D facial structure, voice, biological age, height, weight, body mass index, eye color and skin color. The study received strong backlash from a number of prominent scientists, including Yaniv Erlich, aka the “genome hacker.” The study seemed to predict average faces based on sex and ancestry, rather than specific faces of individuals. The method of judging the predictions on small ethnically mixed cohorts was also criticized.

A database to match? Many world governments include Australian government is in the process of building a biometric database, where possibly genetic data included. “The Capability” in a proposed biometric and facial recognition system is to match CCTV footage and other information on the passports or driving licences. Initially the project was billed as a counter-terrorism measure. At the same time, the Australian Tax Office has just initiated a voice recognition service. It’s easy to imagine how this kind of system could be integrated with “civic fabric” And it’s not only Australia establishing the capability to become a biometric, face-recognizing surveillance state. India is deployed the Aadhar system although it met some criticism. US is the same and China is a leader in facial recognition in the world.




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