Study shows how genes shape face

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Image caption Longer or shorter skull? It's in the genes!

Scientists are starting to understand how our genes influence the way we look.

A study with mice has shown that small changes to their DNA could alter the shape of their face. The findings are published in the journal Science.

Reporter

Rebecca Morelle

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This study helps to explain how one person's face can look so different from another's. Scientists have identified thousands of sequences in our DNA that influence our appearance as we develop in the womb.

By looking at mice, they found that removing some of this genetic material subtly altered the rodent's appearance. In some, the modified DNA led to a longer or shorter skull, while others had wider or narrower faces. The researchers say that although the work was carried out on animals, the human face is likely to develop in the same way.

Dr Axel Visel, from the Lawrence Berkely National Laboratory in California led the study.

"We are trying to find out how the instructions for building the human face are embedded in the human DNA, so somewhere in there, there must be that blueprint that defines what our face looks like."

The researchers say understanding this complex process could also help to reveal how facial birth defects - such as cleft lips and palates - arise.

Vocabulary

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identified: mengidentifikasi, menemukan

subtly altered: mengubah sedikit

carried out: dilakukan

embedded: menempel

blueprint: cetak biru, denah

birth defects: kelainan sejak lahir

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