Genetics

03 September 2014

Software can screen family photos for genetic disorders

New technology created by researchers at Oxford University can process photographs of your family members and analyse their faces for telltale signs of genetic disorders.

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Many diseases have genetic precursors which can put entire bloodlines at risk of the same illness.

The problem comes when family histories are inaccurate or incomplete, and they often are.

Many rare diseases have only been defined in the past 20-30 years, meaning that your grandparents may have had it but were never diagnosed.

As a result, your doctor would have no idea that this disease runs in your family and correspondingly be much less likely to diagnose you with it.

Read: Parkinsons, cancer and family history linked

This could all be about to change, however. While doctors might not be able to resurrect your long-dead great-grandfather and ask him what’s wrong, they might be able to do the next best thing, reports Mediico.

Research findings

New technology created by researchers at Oxford University can process photographs of your family members and analyse their faces for telltale signs of genetic disorders.

Up to 40% of genetic disorders have currently identifiable facial abnormalities. These abnormalities are usually present in the eyes, nose and corners of the mouth, according to the department’s website.

Some of the most famous genetic disorders include Huntington ’s disease, cystic fibrosis and haemophilia, though not all of these currently have facial markers.

It is possible that future research will help to identify such markers and make diagnosis through this method possible.

Read: Stroke risk may run in the family

Genetic disorders are usually the result of a single malformed gene and affect in 1 in 17 people.

Some of these disorders are relatively minor, while others can severely impair quality, and duration, of life in the affected person.

The future implications for such technology, currently referred to as Clinical Face Phenotype Space are vast.

The researchers envision a system in which doctors can simply take a photo of a person with their smartphone and then run that image through an app which would screen the patient for genetic disorders.

Read More:

Who gets prostatitis and who is at risk?
Family history linked to teen acne
A genetic link between epilepsy and migraine

Image: Old family photographfrom Shutterstock

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