Facial recognition from DNA using face-to-DNA classifiers

Dzemila Sero, Arslan Zaidi, Jiarui Li, Julie D. White, Tomás B.González Zarzar, Mary L. Marazita, Seth M. Weinberg, Paul Suetens, Dirk Vandermeulen, Jennifer K. Wagner, Mark D. Shriver, Peter Claes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Facial recognition from DNA refers to the identification or verification of unidentified biological material against facial images with known identity. One approach to establish the identity of unidentified biological material is to predict the face from DNA, and subsequently to match against facial images. However, DNA phenotyping of the human face remains challenging. Here, another proof of concept to biometric authentication is established by using multiple face-to-DNA classifiers, each classifying given faces by a DNA-encoded aspect (sex, genomic background, individual genetic loci), or by a DNA-inferred aspect (BMI, age). Face-to-DNA classifiers on distinct DNA aspects are fused into one matching score for any given face against DNA. In a globally diverse, and subsequently in a homogeneous cohort, we demonstrate preliminary, but substantial true (83%, 80%) over false (17%, 20%) matching in verification mode. Consequences of future efforts include forensic applications, necessitating careful consideration of ethical and legal implications for privacy in genomic databases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2557
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This investigation was supported by the KU Leuven, BOF (C14/15/081), NIH (1-RO1-DE027023) and FWO Flanders (G078518N). The collaborators at the Penn State University were supported in part by grants from the Center for Human Evolution and Development at Penn State, the Science Foundation of Ireland Walton Fellowship (04. W4/B643), the United States National Institute Justice (www.nij.gov; 2008-DN-BX-K125), and by the United States Department of Defense (www.defense.gov). JKW’s contribution was supported by Grant No. R00HG006446 from the National Human Genome Research Institute. The collaborators at the University of Pittsburgh were supported by grants from the National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research (http://www.nidcr.nih.gov/) (U01-DE020078; R01-DE027023; R01-DE016148; 1-R01-DE027023) and the Centers for Disease Control (https://www.cdc.gov/) (R01-DD000295). Funding for genotyping of the PITT cohort was provided by the National Human Genome Research Institute (https://www.genome.gov/): X01-HG007821. The content of this article is the authors’ responsibilities and might not represent the official views of the authors’ funding sources or employers.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, The Author(s).


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