Just now that we are stunned by the talents of facial recognition, its undoubted technical advances, its remarkable shortcomings and the business and political projects to use in the pursuit of crime – including such appalling crimes how to jump a frontier for a living—right now, it turns out that there's an entirely new type of facial algorithm that's not written in zero-and-zero stingers, but in the four-letter sequence (gatacca...) of DNA. Read in Matter how Spanish and Israeli researchers have managed to make a robot portrait of a denisovan girl starting exclusively from her genome. A tiny piece of the last phalanx of the little finger of the girl of that extinct species has allowed her to reconstruct her physical appearance. It's an amazing achievement,
Many geneticists considered this feat likely. After all, we have known for half a century that there are genes of form, segments of machine code that dictate where the structures of the body should be, how much they should grow and what morphology they should adopt. Scientists have been able to deduce from a mere DNA sequence for decades whether its owner is a fish or a mammal, an insect or an arachnid, whether or not it flies, how many legs it has, what it eats and what senses they interact with the world. The new work is a natural extension of that growing predictive capacity, as the face is made of forms, and the forms are dictated by genes, or at least very influenced by them. That's why children tend to look like their parents. But I don't know how many current geneticists were counting on knowing this result during their lifetime. Some of you will get caught with your foot changed,
Another message of the article is the growing evidence of the importance of epigenetics. Epigenetics is not about alterations in the DNA sequence (such as gatacca-catacca), but about other things that stick to it (hence epigenetics, literally on top of genes). The two fundamentals are proteins called histones and some of the simplest radicals in organic chemistry, such as the methyl group (–CH3, a carbon atom bound to three hydrogen and with an available bond). When a gene is covered with methyl groups, it is most commonly inactivated in whole or in part, or in some areas of the body and not in others, or at certain stages of earlier or later developmental. These epigenetic modulations have been the key to inferring the face of the denisovangirl. The methyl groups were still there after 50,000 years, ready to filter a photo of their owner,
The rest is surely CSI meat. That series has made us all accustomed to the possibility of reading a suspect's DNA from a hair, a skin cell trapped between the victim's fingernails, or a humble speck of dandruff. But those genetic sequences mean nothing if they don't marry others stored in the databases. The mere possibility of using them to deduce the face of their carrier would give for another five seasons or, preferably, for an entirely new series.