New tool predicts eye, hair and skin color from a DNA sample of an unidentified individual

May 14, 2018, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis School of Science
An international team, led by scientists from the School of Science at IUPUI and Erasmus MC University Medical Center Rotterdam, has developed a novel tool to accurately predict eye, hair and skin color from human biological material. The innovative high-probability and high-accuracy complete pigmentation profile webtool is available online without charge. Credit: Walsh lab in School of Science at IUPUI

An international team, led by scientists from the School of Science at IUPUI and Erasmus MC University Medical Center Rotterdam in the Netherlands, has developed a novel tool to accurately predict eye, hair and skin color from human biological material—even a small DNA sample—left, for example, at a crime scene or obtained from archeological remains. This all-in-one pigmentation profile tool provides a physical description of the person in a way that has not previously been possible by generating all three pigment traits together using a freely available webtool.

The tool is designed to be used when standard forensic DNA profiling is not helpful because no reference DNA exists against which to compare the evidence sample.

The HIrisPlex-S DNA test system is capable of simultaneously predicting eye, and phenotypes from DNA. Users, such as law enforcement officials or anthropologists, can enter relevant data using a laboratory DNA analysis , and the webtool will predict the pigment profile of the DNA donor.

"We have previously provided law enforcement and anthropologists with DNA tools for eye and for combined eye and hair color, but skin color has been more difficult," said forensic geneticist Susan Walsh from IUPUI, who co-directed the study. "Importantly, we are directly predicting actual skin color divided into five subtypes—very pale, pale, intermediate, dark and dark to black—using DNA markers from the genes that determine an individual's skin coloration. This is not the same as identifying genetic ancestry. You might say it's more similar to specifying a paint color in a hardware store rather than denoting race or ethnicity.

"If anyone asks an eyewitness what they saw, the majority of time they mention hair color and skin color. What we are doing is using genetics to take an objective look at what they saw," Walsh said.

The innovative high-probability and high-accuracy complete pigmentation profile webtool is available online without charge.

The study, "HIrisPlex-S System for Eye, Hair and Skin Colour Prediction from DNA: Introduction and Forensic Developmental Validation," is published in the peer-reviewed journal Forensic Science International: Genetics.

"With our new HIrisPlex-S system, for the first time, forensic geneticists and genetic anthropologists are able to simultaneously generate eye, hair and color information from a DNA sample, including DNA of the low quality and quantity often found in forensic casework and anthropological studies," said Manfred Kayser of Erasmus MC, co-leader of the study.

Explore further: Study identifies more than a hundred new genes that determine hair color

More information: Lakshmi Chaitanya et al, The HIrisPlex-S system for eye, hair and skin colour prediction from DNA: Introduction and forensic developmental validation, Forensic Science International: Genetics (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.fsigen.2018.04.004

Related Stories

Study identifies more than a hundred new genes that determine hair color

April 16, 2018
A team of scientists, led by academics from King's College London and Erasmus MC University Medical Center Rotterdam, have discovered 124 genes that play a major role in determining human hair colour variation.

Predicting human body height from DNA

November 20, 2013
Predicting adult body height from genetic data is helpful in several areas such as pediatric endocrinology and forensic investigations. However, despite large international efforts to catalogue the genes that influence the ...

What did our ancestors look like?

January 13, 2013
A new method of establishing hair and eye colour from modern forensic samples can also be used to identify details from ancient human remains, finds a new study published in BioMed Central's open access journal Investigative ...

Recommended for you

A single missing gene leads to miscarriage

October 19, 2018
A single gene from the mother plays such a crucial role in the development of the placenta that its dysfunction leads to miscarriages. Researchers from the Medical Faculty of Ruhr-Universität Bochum (RUB) have observed this ...

Making gene therapy delivery safer and more efficient

October 18, 2018
Viral vectors used to deliver gene therapies undergo spontaneous changes during manufacturing which affects their structure and function, found researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania ...

Student develops microfluidics device to help scientists identify early genetic markers of cancer

October 16, 2018
As anyone who has played "Where's Waldo" knows, searching for a single item in a landscape filled with a mélange of characters and objects can be a challenge. Chrissy O'Keefe, a Ph.D. student in the Department of Biomedical ...

Researchers use brain cells in a dish to study genetic origins of schizophrenia

October 16, 2018
A study in Biological Psychiatry has established a new analytical method for investigating the complex genetic origins of mental illnesses using brain cells that are grown in a dish from human embryonic stem cells. Researchers ...

Why heart contractions are weaker in those with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy

October 16, 2018
When a young athlete suddenly dies of a heart attack, chances are high that they suffer from familial hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM). Itis the most common genetic heart disease in the US and affects an estimated 1 in 500 ...

Importance of cell cycle and cellular senescence in the placenta discovered

October 15, 2018
Working with researchers from Stanford University and St. Anna Children's Cancer Research, researchers from Jürgen Pollheimer's laboratory at the Medical University of Vienna's Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology have ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.