Predicting facial characteristics from complex polygenic variations

Jens Fagertun, Karin Marie Brandt Wolffhechel, Tune Pers, Henrik Bjørn Nielsen, Daniel Gudbjartsson, Hreinn Stefansson, Kari Stefansson, Rasmus Reinhold Paulsen, Hanne Østergaard Jarmer

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Research into the importance of the human genome in the context of facial appearance is receiving increasing attention and has led to the detection of several Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs) of importance. In this work we attempt a holistic approach predicting facial characteristics from genetic principal components across a population of 1,266 individuals. For this we perform a genome-wide association analysis to select a large number of SNPs linked to specific facial traits, recode these to genetic principal components and then use these principal components as predictors for facial traits in a linear regression. We show in this proof-of-concept study for facial trait prediction from genome-wide SNP data that some facial characteristics can be modeled by genetic information: facial width, eyebrow width, distance between eyes, and features involving mouth shape are predicted with statistical significance (p < 0.03).
Original languageEnglish
JournalForensic Science International: Genetics
Pages (from-to)263-268
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Facial trait prediction
  • Visible trait prediction
  • Normal trait variation
  • Evolutionary genetics
  • Genetic association


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