Can the face of a person be accurately rendered just from analysing a DNA sample of that individual?

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    $\begingroup$ I posed a similar question a while back. You might want to check it out, even if the answer is inconclusive... $\endgroup$ Commented May 6, 2013 at 13:12

2 Answers 2


Not accurately. Assuming the DNA information is the DNA sequence, you can't tell which genes are being expressed and which are being silenced. These are through chemical groups on the DNA which aren't generally picked up.

Also there's the environment that grossly affects what you look like, how much you weigh, your skin colour and cosmetic surgery.

  • $\begingroup$ Just for added clarity, the chemical modifications I referred to were epigenetic mechanisms of methylation and histone acetylation etc. $\endgroup$ Commented May 10, 2013 at 23:30
  • $\begingroup$ Just saying grossly means net-gain. It's used when describing things like financial matters, and really doesn't make sense here..unless you mean they've had some sort of terrible accident :P $\endgroup$
    – Starkers
    Commented Mar 15, 2014 at 12:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Starkers in medical terms it means that which is visible to the naked eye. It also is used for financial matters. It's a homonym. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 15, 2014 at 13:45
  • $\begingroup$ @Starkers Gross Anatomy... It's probably not a bad idea to assume someone knows something you don't until you can prove them incorrect. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 4, 2015 at 1:28

It depends what you mean by "predict". Consider that the faces on genetically identical individuals, such as identical twins, are very similar, even in old age. If you look at the processes of development over the life of an individual as a more-or-less deterministic and predictable phenomenon, then you might argue that faces are predictable from DNA info. The fact that no one has ever done this from first principles is another issue - in principle it is possible.

  • $\begingroup$ So you are saying it is possible to analyze someone's DNA and determine approximately what their face will look like? $\endgroup$
    – L.B.
    Commented Mar 4, 2015 at 1:44
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    $\begingroup$ I'm saying that if "nature" can reliably produce similar-looking faces from similar DNA, then there is an underlying mechanism operating which is accessible to scientific investigation, possibly leading to a technology of predicting facial features by examining a person's genome. But not yet. $\endgroup$
    – jalegris
    Commented Mar 4, 2015 at 2:24
  • $\begingroup$ That's cool. It would/will be interesting to see what comes of that in the coming years. Thank you for sharing :) $\endgroup$
    – L.B.
    Commented Mar 4, 2015 at 3:29

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