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Coming Soon, Mugshots Of Criminals From Their DNA

We know that science has come far enough for us to be able to identify the perpetrator of a crime from the DNA — a strand of hair, semen etc — he might leave at the scene of the crime. Unfortunately, very often, the DNA doesn't match a profile in criminal databases, which in turn means the perpetrator might have got away with his crime.

But not for much longer.

Researches are now saying the day is not very far away when they will be able to create a "photo" of the perpetrator from the DNA that he leaves behind. Researchers are already able to tell what a crime suspect might look like from looking at his DNA, including his racial ancestry and the colour of his hair.

That started in 2012, when Manfred Kayser from the Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam, Holland, began looking for genes that affected the relative positions of nine facial "landmarks", including the tip of the nose and the middle of each eyeball. He found five genetic variants which had discernable effects on facial shape.

Furthering Kayser's work, population geneticist Mark Shriver of Pennsylvania State University and imaging specialist Peter Claes of the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium used a stereoscopic camera to take 3D pictures of almost 600 volunteers with mixed European and West African ancestry. The scientists reasoned that because people from Europe and Africa tend to have differently shaped faces, studying people with mixed ancestry pushed up their chances of finding genetic variants that affected facial structure.

Shriver and Claes found 24 variants in 20 genes that seemed to predict what a face would look like.

The researches however say their reconstructions are not yet ready for routine use by crime labs. But that said, Shriver is already working with police to see if he can help find the man believed to be responsible for two cases of serial rape in Pennsylvania.
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