Scientists unveil tool that can predict the color of your eyes, hair, and skin using DNA alone
- Tool can accurately predict eye, hair and skin color from a small sample of DNA
- Designed to be used when standard forensic DNA profiling is not helpful
- HIrisPlex-S DNA test system is used by law enforcement and anthropologists
An innovative new tool can accurately predict eye, hair and skin color from just a small sample of DNA.
An international team of researchers developed the HIrisPlex-S DNA test system that can provide a physical description of the person in a way that has not previously been possible by generating all three pigment traits together.
The tool can identify the genetic markers from DNA left at a crime scene or obtained from archaeological remains.
An international team of researchers developed the HIrisPlex-S DNA test system that can accurately predict eye, hair and skin color from a small sample of DNA
‘We have previously provided law enforcement and anthropologists with DNA tools for eye color and for combined eye and hair color, but skin color has been more difficult,’ said forensic geneticist Susan Walsh, 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.’
Walsh is currently working with the Indiana State Police to determine how this tool can help enhance victim identification and crime-solving.
‘If anyone asks an eyewitness what they saw, the majority of time they mention hair color and skin color.
The HIrisPlex-S DNA test system is capable of simultaneously predicting eye, hair and skin color phenotypes from DNA (artist’s impression pictured)
‘What we are doing is using genetics to take an objective look at what they saw,’ Walsh said.
The HIrisPlex-S DNA test system is capable of simultaneously predicting eye, hair and skin color phenotypes from DNA.
Users can enter relevant data using a laboratory DNA analysis tool, and the webtool will predict the pigment profile of the DNA donor.
WHAT IS DNA?
DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is a complex chemical in almost all organisms that carries genetic information.
It is located in chromosomes the cell nucleus and almost every cell in a person’s body has the same DNA.
It is composed of four chemical bases: adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C), and thymine (T).
The structure of the double-helix DNA comes from adenine binding with thymine and cytosine binding with guanine.
Human DNA consists of three billion bases and more than 99 per cent of those are the same in all people.
The order of the bases determines what information is available for maintaining an organism (similar to the way in which letters of the alphabet form sentences).
The DNA bases pair up with each other and also attach to a sugar molecule and phosphate molecule, combining to form a nucleotide.
These nucleotides are arranged in two long strands that form a spiral called a double helix.
The double helix looks like a ladder with the base pairs forming the rungs and the sugar and phosphate molecules forming vertical sidepieces.
A new form of DNA was recently discovered inside living human cells for the first time.
Named i-motif, the form looks like a twisted ‘knot’ of DNA rather than the well-known double helix.
It is unclear what the function of the i-motif is, but experts believe it could be for ‘reading’ DNA sequences and converting them into useful substances.
Source: US National Library of Medicine
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