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UCL Scientists Discover Genes For Facial Features

Genes for face shape: Uncovered by UCL Scientists

A UCL-led study group has uncovered the genes that define the shape of a person’s facial profile.

Scientists have discovered 32 gene regions that affect facial characteristics like nose, lip, jaw, and eyebrow shape, 9 of which were totally novel findings. In contrast, the others confirmed genes with previous minimal proof.

The study of data from over 6,000 individuals across Latin America was released in Science Advances.

The global research group, headed by University College London, Aix-Marseille University, and The Open University, found that one of the genes seems to have been inherited from an extinct population of ancient humans that lived 10000s of years back – the Denisovans, also known as Denisova hominins.

Genes for face shape
Face profile features showing genome-wide significant association. Image Credits:

The study group discovered that the gene TBX15, which is responsible for lip shape, was associated with genetic data present in the Denisovan population, hinting at the origin of the gene. The Denisova hominins lived in central Asia. Various other researches imply that they interbred with modern human beings, as several of their DNA is identified in Pacific Islanders and Indigenous individuals of the Americas.

Dr. Kaustubh Adhikari, Co-author, University College London, Genetics, Evolution, and Environment and The Open University stated that the genes responsible for the face shape they observed might have been the result of evolution as ancient humans evolved to adjust to their surroundings. Probably, the version of the gene responsible for lip shape that was found in the Denisova hominins can have assisted in body fat distribution to make them much suitably adapted to the cold environments of Central Asia, and was carried on to present-day people when both groups met and interbred.

Dr. Pierre Faux, a co-author, Aix-Marseille University, stated that as per their understanding, this is the first time that a version of a gene inherited from ancient human beings is related to attributes of the face in modern people. In this instance, it was only feasible because they went beyond Eurocentric research; modern Europeans do not have any DNA from the Denisovans, yet Native Americans do.

Betty Bonfante, a co-author, Aix-Marseille University, stated that it is among just a few studies looking for genes influencing the face in a non-European populace, and the initial one to concentrate on just the profile.

Scientists have only been capable of evaluating complicated genetic data from hundreds of individuals at a time in the past 20 years – because the mapping of the human genome allowed the use of genome-wide association researches to find relationships between genes and characteristics. This research contrasted genetic data from the research group with features of their facial shape, assessed with 59 measurements (ratios between set points, angles, and distances) from images of the individuals’ faces in profile.

Prof. Andres Ruiz-Linares, co-author, Fudan College, UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment, and Aix-Marseille University, stated that a study like this could supply fundamental biomedical insights and aid in knowing how human beings evolved.

The outcomes of this study might assist know the developmental processes that establish face shapes, which will aid scientists in studying genetic disorders that result in facial abnormalities.

Likewise, the outcomes add to the knowledge of the evolution of facial features in human beings and other species. Among the recently uncovered genes found in this research is VPS13B, which affects nose pointiness. Additionally, the scientists discovered that this gene influences nose structure in the animal models used in the lab, suggesting a generally common genetic basis amongst distantly related mammal species.


Genes for face shape: Uncovered by UCL Scientists



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