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3D Faces Printed from DNA in Discarded Objects
Photograph by Heather Dewey-Hagborg

How accurate are the results?

It is important to note that this is a work in progress! I’m really only starting to explore all the traits I am interested in examining with this technique. I usually say they have a “family resemblance” to the person. They will have similar traits and ancestry, but might look more like a possible cousin than a spitting image of the person themselves.

The reason for this is multifold, but the primary reason is the research on facial morphology, the way human faces differ, is still in very early stages. A lot of this information comes from what are called Genome-wide Association Studies, research that looks at hundreds or thousands of genomes and tries to find correlations. So it logically follows that the more genomes we sequence, the more correlations we will find.

Heather has no way, to tell the age of a person based on their DNA. “For right now, the process creates basically a 25-year-old version of the person,” she says.