DNA Phenotyping: Real or Wishful Thinking?

02 Apr


Genotype means what your DNA is like. Phenotype means what you look like. No doubt your genotype dictates much of your phenotype, but can your DNA be used to create your image? Maybe, maybe not.

For law enforcement and forensic scientists, the question becomes: Can investigators use a DNA sample to create an image of a suspect? The creators of the SNAPSHOT technology believe so. This complex system looks at the areas of the DNA sequence (genotype) that are known to affect our appearance (phenotype). By analyzing these sequences, they believe they can create a reasonable likeness of the person.

This is obviously a new technique and much more study is required, but if it proves to be useful, it would offer a great tool to law enforcement. Having a DNA sample is one thing, but creating a suspect’s image from that would be a critical bit of evidence in tracking and identifying perpetrators.


Posted by on April 2, 2015 in DNA


5 responses to “DNA Phenotyping: Real or Wishful Thinking?

  1. Cheryl B. Dale

    April 2, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    If this can be done, it will certainly change law enforcement!


  2. wolfemann

    April 2, 2015 at 3:17 pm

    But… ouch. There is so much missing from this. Like hair style, build, probably a dozen other things that are all *heavily* influenced by what happens *after* you’re conceived and your genetics are pretty much locked down!

    Also age, frankly. I mean, look at their sample. The generated example looks much younger than the actual photo.


    • D.P. Lyle, MD

      April 2, 2015 at 4:13 pm

      All true. And that’s the same problem those who try to reconstruct facial features from skeletal remains face–no pun intended.


  3. Locard's Lab

    April 3, 2015 at 3:13 am

    I think it could certainly be useful as a tool to guide law enforcement down possible routes of inquiry, but definitely brings about the risk of incorrect identification if not treated with the caution it requires.


  4. Suzanne Joshi

    April 17, 2015 at 4:53 am

    Really interesting.



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