and the researchers placed over 7,000-point locations on the images using a gridded mask that was digitally stretched and pulled to conform to the facial contours of each individual.
‘Specific genetic signals allow viewing normal facial features in the genome that would shed light on craniofacial malformations such as cleft lip and palate. ’
“Collaborations in jointly analyzing multiple datasets in combinations with better analysis techniques are key to push this research,” said Peter Claes, associate professor of engineering science (ESAT-PSI) and human genetics, and head of the Laboratory for Imaging Genetics, who pioneered the 3D analysis method.
He also divided the face into 63 segments using data-driven relationships to avoid pre-existing ideas of which facial areas were important and allowing the researchers to look at the variation in small subsets of the face.
Both the datasets were analyzed separately, and they varied the search to replicate genetic sites associated with facial features.
Extensive set of locations in the DNA that play a role in the development of the human face were revealed. It was also observed that there was overlap among the genes of the face and other parts of the body. This answer why certain facial deformities are associated with other physical problems.
The researchers note that another possible use for their work is in forensics, but there is a long way to go until DNA facial reconstruction can be legal evidence.
Of the 203 genetic locations identified as significant for facial structure, 89 had already been found from other studies, either using the same data or with independent data. They also found 61 locations that were already implicated as the source of facial malformations facial malformations in humans or mice. 53 locations were completely new to this study.
“Our post-analyses provide us with additional evidence, for example, the epigenetic analyses showed that the genetic regions we found get expressed in cells relevant for craniofacial development. We have tagged locations that can be interesting for wet labs to validate and further investigate their exact functions”, said Karlijne Indencleef, a graduate student in biomedical sciences at KU Leuven, Belgium.