After seeing this, you may think twice before spitting out a piece of gum or dropping a cigarette butt. For information artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg’ Stranger Visions project, she collects DNA samples from discarded objects found on the street – like hair, nails, cigarette butts, chewing gum, etc. – and extracts the DNA from them to create a 3D face model. Continue reading for more pictures and information.
Here is a bit more information on the process: “I extract the DNA in the lab and then I amplify certain regions of it using a technique called PCR – Polymerase Chain Reaction. This allows me to study certain regions of the genome that tend to vary person to person, what are called SNPs or Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms.
I send the results of my PCR reactions off to a lab for sequencing and what I get back are basically text files filled with sequences of As, Ts, Cs, and Gs, the nucleotides that compose DNA. I align these using a bioinformatics program and determine what allele is present for a particular SNP on each sample.
I feed this information into a custom computer program I wrote which takes all these values which code for physical genetic traits and parameterizes a 3d model of a face to represent them. For example gender, ancestry, eye color, hair color, freckles, lighter or darker skin, and certain facial features like nose width and distance between eyes are some of the features I am in the process of studying.”