By comparing genomes across thousands of people, researchers identified genetic variations at 24 different points in the human genome that are linked with eye and hair colors, which past studies used to help determine the appearance of people who had died relatively recently. Now a team of researchers from Poland and the Netherlands have developed this system further to reveal the appearance of people long dead.
"We were able to look at the appearance of people who died several hundred years ago," researcher Wojciech Branicki, a geneticist at the Institute of Forensic Research and Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland, told LiveScience.
For instance, the researchers analyzed DNA from Gen. Władysław Sikorski, who was born in 1881 and died in 1943. During World War II, Sikorski was commander-in-chief of the Polish Armed Forces and was also prime minister of the Polish government in exile. He died in an airplane crash at Gibraltar. By analyzing genes from one of his teeth, the researchers confirmed he had the blue eyesand blond hair seen in portraits painted many years after his death.
"This system can be used to solve historical controversies where color photographs or other records are missing," Branicki said.
The researchers say their system, called HIrisPlex, can predict either blue or brown eye colors with about 94 percent accuracy. When it comes to hair color, it has accuracies of 69.5 percent for blond, 78.5 percent for brown, 80 percent for red and 87.5 percent for black.
For medieval samples, where DNA is relatively degraded, this system was still capable of predicting eye and hair color from remains about 800 years old.
keyboard shortcuts: V vote up article J next comment K previous comment