This algorithm can predict what you look like using only your DNA

Scientists have developed an algorithm that can predict what you look like using only your genome sequence.

Researchers from Human Longevity Inc in San Diego, California, sequenced the genomes of more than 1,000 participants and captured 3D images of their faces and eye colour.

They also recorded their voices and measured their height and weight.

The scientists then trained their computer algorithm to generate predictions of what a person would look like based only on raw genomic data.

DNA strand.
Scentists have used DNA and computer algorithms to accurately predict what a person would look like (Cosmin4000/Getty Images)

Eventually, the algorithms were able to produce digital facial images with 80% accuracy.

However, the research does raise privacy concerns for those who have their DNA stored in databases.

“This is the first study combining multiple trait predictions to do identification,” study leader J Craig Venter told San Diego news website KPBS.

“I think people need to really be cautious.

“If someone is promising their data can be de-identified, and there’s no security on the database, they’re getting false promises.”

Facial recognition.
Researchers hope that their technology could be used to build genetic mugshots of unidentified crimimals (Stevanovicigor/Getty Images)

The algorithm could not reliably predict whether or not a person was bald and had difficulty identifying individuals from groups of people sharing a similar ancestry – so there is still more work to be done.

If the technology is developed further, Venter says it could be used to build genetic mugshots of unidentified criminals using genomic data.

“We want to improve them so they get to the level where a court would accept them as evidence,” he said.

The research is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


 

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