DNA Technique Reveals Looks of Long-Dead Humans
2013 01 21

By Charles Choi | LiveScience.com




The color of the eyes and hair of ancestors dead for hundreds of years can now be revealed from their DNA alone, researchers say.

These findings suggest investigators not only can uncover new details from centuries-old human remains, but can also help identify crime victims, scientists added.

By comparing genomes across thousands of people, researchers identified genetic variations at 24 different points in the human genome that are linked with eye and hair colors, which past studies used to help determine the appearance of people who had died relatively recently. Now a team of researchers from Poland and the Netherlands have developed this system further to reveal the appearance of people long dead.

"We were able to look at the appearance of people who died several hundred years ago," researcher Wojciech Branicki, a geneticist at the Institute of Forensic Research and Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland, told LiveScience.

For instance, the researchers analyzed DNA from Gen. Władysław Sikorski, who was born in 1881 and died in 1943. During World War II, Sikorski was commander-in-chief of the Polish Armed Forces and was also prime minister of the Polish government in exile. He died in an airplane crash at Gibraltar. By analyzing genes from one of his teeth, the researchers confirmed he had the blue eyesand blond hair seen in portraits painted many years after his death.

"This system can be used to solve historical controversies where color photographs or other records are missing," Branicki said.

The researchers say their system, called HIrisPlex, can predict either blue or brown eye colors with about 94 percent accuracy. When it comes to hair color, it has accuracies of 69.5 percent for blond, 78.5 percent for brown, 80 percent for red and 87.5 percent for black.

For medieval samples, where DNA is relatively degraded, this system was still capable of predicting eye and hair color from remains about 800 years old. For instance, the researchers identified one mysterious woman from between the 12th and 14th centuries A.D. who was buried in a crypt of the Benedictine Abbey in Tyniec near Kraków, where only remains of male monks were expected. The results hint that she had dark blond or brown hair and brown eyes.

Although this research can help reveal what ancient human ancestors might have looked like based on their DNA alone, Branicki thinks the most practical aspect of their work is how it can help identify corpses for forensic analysis. For instance, "some of our samples were from unknown inmates of a World War II prison," he said. "In these cases, HIrisPlex helped to put physical features to the other DNA evidence."

[...]

Read the full article at: livescience.com






Related Articles
Personal Genomes Could Soon Be Public Information
Are genes our destiny? ’Hidden’ code in DNA evolves more rapidly than genetic code
The Trouble with Adam Lanza’s DNA
Christmas Tree DNA: complex conifer genome ’dauntingly huge’
Shrunken Head DNA Proves Horrific Folklore True


Latest News from our Front Page

If Someone Secretly Controlled What You Say, Would Anyone Notice?
2014 10 01
The subject enters a room in which a 12-year-old boy is seated. A 20-minute conversation ensues. The subject quizzes the boy about current events and other topics to get a sense of his intelligence and personality. But the boy is not what he appears to be. Unbeknownst to the subject, the boy is wearing a radio receiver in his ear, and ...
Obama has had accurate intelligence about ISIS since BEFORE the 2012 election, says administration insider
2014 10 01
‘President Barack Obama’s intelligence briefings have provided him with specific information since before he won re-election in 2012 about the growing threat of the terror group now known alternatively as ISIS and ISIL, an administration insider told MailOnline on Monday. ‘Unless someone very senior has been shredding the president’s daily briefings and telling him that the dog ate them, highly accurate ...
Can holding a magnet against your head help defeat depression?
2014 10 01
Former GP Sue Mildred suffered from crippling depression and anxiety for 20 years. On two occasions it was so severe that she ended up in hospital, and for 15 years she was unable to work. Sue, 51, has tried antidepressants, talking therapies and, out of desperation, even ECT (electro-convulsive therapy), where an electric current is passed through the brain. This did ...
Extremists to have Facebook and Twitter vetted by anti-terror police
2014 09 30
Theresa May to announce new Extremist Disruption Orders to strengthen counter-terrorism if the Tories win the next general election Extremists will have to get posts on Facebook and Twitter approved in advance by the police under sweeping rules planned by the Conservatives. They will also be barred from speaking at public events if they represent a threat to “the functioning of democracy”, ...
Scottish Independence: Protesters demand revote
2014 09 30
Pro-independence campaigners gathered outside the Scottish Parliament for the second day in a row, this time to demand a revote of the September 18 referendum. While yesterday’s “Rally For A Revote” saw the return of Saltires and Yes banners to Holyrood, it did not match the turnout for the “Voice Of The People” rally held on Saturday, when up 3000 people ...
More News »