Buried in an article about “A genomic entrepreneur plans to sell genetic workups for as little as $250” is perhaps an even more striking claim that “the [Human Longevity Inc, HLI] company is trying to show it can predict from genes exactly what people look like.”
While the project is not complete, and some might look at this futuristic capability as a way to make designer babies, it excites me instead as an amateur genealogist. I mean, how cool would it be to find out exactly what an ancestor or famous person from the past looked like by having just a small sample of DNA? Could the technique eventually be extended to look back by using a number of samples of descendants today? In other words, if you don’t have a DNA sample for the ancestor, could you use DNA samples from descendants in such a way as to predict closely what that ancestor must have looked like? Want to know who that man is on the right in an old family photo?
Yes, I’m ignoring the obvious usage of this technology for forensics, mostly because it could be kind of spooky in this regard to know what someone looks like just from a DNA sample. Talk about profiling. This is the stuff of science fiction today, though J. Craig Venter says that HLI can already describe the color of your eyes [from your DNA] better than you can.
Will predicting looks from DNA be the next tool on one or more of the genealogy websites? Who knows when that might happen, but if you are interested in this subject as I am, you might enjoy the Ted talk below.
By the way, in the next year I plan to release a new e-book collection of my published stories related to genetics.