Five genes have been found to determine human facial shapes

Five genes have been found to determine human facial shapes, as reported by researchers from the Netherlands, Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia in the open-access journal PLOS Genetics.

have almost identical faces and siblings usually have more similar faces than unrelated people, implying that genes play a major role in the appearance of the . However, almost nothing is known about the genes responsible for facial morphology in humans.

This study, carried out on behalf of the International Visible Trait Genetics (VisiGen) Consortium, used head together with portrait photographs to map facial landmarks, from which facial distances were estimated. The researchers then applied a genome-wide association (GWA) approach, with independent replication, to finding DNA variants involved in facial shapes in almost 10,000 individuals.

Three of the five genes identified have been implicated previously by other approaches in vertebrate craniofacial development and disease; of these three, one was reported to be involved in facial morphology in a GWA study on children published earlier this year. The remaining two genes potentially represent completely new players in the governing facial development.

Professor Manfred Kayser from the Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam, The Netherlands, the leading author of the study, said: "These are exciting first results that mark the beginning of the genetic understanding of human facial morphology. Perhaps some time it will be possible to draw a phantom portrait of a person solely from his or her DNA left behind, which provides interesting applications such as in forensics. We already can predict from DNA certain eye and hair colours with quite high accuracies."

More information: Liu F, van der Lijn F, Schurmann C, Zhu G, Chakravarty MM, et al. (2012) A Genome-Wide Association Study Identifies Five Loci Influencing Facial Morphology in Europeans. PLoS Genetics 8(9): e1002932.doi:10.1371/journal.pgen.1002932

Related Stories

Forensic test to identify hair color from DNA

Jan 11, 2011

Watch out would-be criminals, because new tools are on the way that could make crime pay even less. A group of European researchers has laid the foundation for a test that can identify hair color from DNA ...

New genes involved in human eye color identified

May 06, 2010

Three new genetic loci have been identified with involvement in subtle and quantitative variation of human eye colour. The study, led by Manfred Kayser of the Erasmus University Medical Center Rotterdam, ...

Discovery of facial malformation gene

May 15, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- The first specific genetic mutation which can cause a potentially serious facial disfigurement has been identified by researchers at Oxford University. The finding, published online in the ...

Recommended for you

Schizophrenia's genetic architecture revealed (w/ Video)

14 hours ago

Queensland scientists are closer to effective treatments for schizophrenia after uncovering dozens of sites across the human genome that are strongly associated with a genetic predisposition to schizophrenia.

Mysterious esophagus disease is autoimmune after all

Jul 22, 2014

(Medical Xpress)—Achalasia is a rare disease – it affects 1 in 100,000 people – characterized by a loss of nerve cells in the esophageal wall. While its cause remains unknown, a new study by a team of researchers at ...

Diagnostic criteria for Christianson Syndrome

Jul 21, 2014

Because the severe autism-like condition Christianson Syndrome was only first reported in 1999 and some symptoms take more than a decade to appear, families and doctors urgently need fundamental information ...

User comments