DNA ‘Snapshot’ facial modeling–and predicting future Alzheimer’s risk

click to enlargeIt sounds like something from an episode of ‘Law & Order’ (US or UK), but extracting facial appearance and ancestry from a forensic DNA sample isn’t fiction anymore. Parabon NanoLabs was funded by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) to develop Snapshot originally to dismantle improvised explosive device networks in Iraq and Afghanistan. The methodology was then transferred to DNA analysis. Parabon uses data mining and advanced machine learning to predict how the single nucleotide polymorphisms of the genome will make someone appear. This appearance profiling includes eye color, skin color, hair color, face morphology, and detailed biogeographic ancestry (see left above). The forensic art alone can age up or down the subject, adding or subtracting glasses and facial hair. These factors have successfully focused investigations for over 80 law enforcement agencies. According to Armed with Science, Parabon is now transferring the technology to predict an individual’s lifetime risk of Alzheimer’s–certainly a revolutionary use in healthcare technology.

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