23andMe DNA Data Can Predict How You Look? Yes, Say Researchers
Researchers in California have created software for turning a person’s raw DNA data into a predictive picture of their face. Using anonymous data — the kind that genetics companies like 23andMe sell to pharmaceutical companies for research purposes — scientists from Human Longevity, Inc., a private genetics lab, have made computer generated images that resemble a person’s real face.
“When you have the whole genome, we can predict a photograph, your height, your weight, your eye color,” Craig Venter, founder of Human Longevity, Inc, told KPBS.org.
“We can generate photos from the 23andMe data,” Venter added.
In a paper published Monday, the researchers detailed how they used anonymous data from over 1,000 people to create an algorithm that could give a fairly accurate physical portrait of a person. The algorithm could not reliably predict traits like baldness and freckles, or show what a person looked like at an older age.
“No longer can one assume that exposure of her genome sequence will not be directly linked back to her,” Xiaoqian Jiang, a UC San Diego computer scientist, told KPBS.org. “She needs to realize that sharing her genomic data is just like sharing her picture, with increasingly high resolution.”