3D Faces Printed from DNA in Discarded Objects

May 1, 2018 | No Comments » | Topics: Interesting

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Heather Dewey-Hagborg, a doctoral student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute has created 3D software that produces images of people’s faces from DNA samples. Then she takes it a step further and uses a 3D printer to create a sculpture of what that person probably looks like.

In her fascinating series entitled Stranger Visions, Heather collects DNA samples from discarded objects found on the street such as hair, nails, cigarette butts and chewing gum.

She then takes the samples to a DIY biology lab where she extracts the DNA and sequences the results. The sequence is then fed into a custom-built computer program that spits out a 3D model of a face which she then prints.

Dewey-Hagborg came up with the idea during a therapy session. She was staring at the art around the room when she noticed a single hair trapped within a piece of cracked glass.

"I just became obsessed with thinking about whose hair that was and what they might look like, and what they might be like," she says.

The thought stayed with her on the subway ride home. She noticed cigarette butts, discarded chewing gum and other DNA laden objects strewn around.

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Once in the lab she amplified regions of the DNA using a technique called Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR).

"I send the results of my PCR reactions off to a lab for sequencing and what I get back are basically text files filled with sequences of As, Ts, Cs, and Gs, the nucleotides that comprise DNA. I align these using a bioinformatics program and determine what allele is present for a particular SNP on each sample,"  Dewey-Hagborg says. "Then I feed this information into a custom computer program I wrote that takes all these values which code for physical genetic traits and parameterize a 3d model of a face to represent them."

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“I feed this information into a custom computer program I wrote which takes all these values which code for physical genetic traits and parameterizes a 3d model of a face to represent them. For example gender, ancestry, eye color, hair color, freckles, lighter or darker skin, and certain facial features like nose width and distance between eyes are some of the features I am in the process of studying.”

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“I add some finishing touches to the model in 3d software and then export it for printing on a 3d printer. I use a Zcorp printer which prints in full color using a powder type material, kind of like sand and glue.”

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How accurate are the results?

It is important to note that this is a work in progress! I’m really only starting to explore all the traits I am interested in examining with this technique. I usually say they have a “family resemblance” to the person. They will have similar traits and ancestry, but might look more like a possible cousin than a spitting image of the person themselves.

The reason for this is multifold, but the primary reason is the research on facial morphology, the way human faces differ, is still in very early stages. A lot of this information comes from what are called Genome-wide Association Studies, research that looks at hundreds or thousands of genomes and tries to find correlations. So it logically follows that the more genomes we sequence, the more correlations we will find.

Heather has no way, to tell the age of a person based on their DNA. “For right now, the process creates basically a 25-year-old version of the person,” she says.

funny pictures and videos of the day

funny pictures and videos of the day

funny pictures and videos of the day