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Gene Features
13 June 2017

Gene Features

Take a look at any family – especially one with identical twins – and it’s obvious that genes play a role in the shape and structure of the human face. Whether you’ve inherited your mum’s cheekbones or your dad’s chin, it’s as plain as your nose that features are highly heritable. New analysis tools are enabling researchers to scan through thousands of genetic variations in search of genes that influence facial features, and a handful of culprits have now been found. These images have been constructed using a computer model that combines facial measurements from many people together with genetic data, highlighting the role of subtle variations in one of them: a gene called PAX3, which influences the shape of the bridge of the nose. One version of the gene gives a slimmer nose (left), while the face on the right carries a PAX3 variation that causes a bulkier, higher bridge.

Written by Kat Arney

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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