Did you ever throw away your used piece of gum on the sidewalk thinking that the police might pick up that gum and use it to make Portraits ,made From DNA? Your DNA ? This probably sound like science fiction to you, but its actually pretty doable.
The artist known as Heather Dewey-Hagborg collected locks of hair, cigarette butts, chopped finger nails and chewed up bubble gum from public places. By sampling the DNA from these things, she makes 3D portraits that show how the owners of those might look.
The project “Stranger Visions” is fascinating and worrying at the same time. In her personal blog Dewey-Hagborg say that she thought about the project while sitting in her psychologist office and noticed some hair pieces stuck on a photo frame. She thought about the person whose hair this is – trying to imagine how he might look.
She extracts the DNA from the samples she found and used a database of known DNA strings – that shows specific attributes of a person. Dewey-Hagborg says that she used about 40-50 attributes like spacing between the eyes, probability to gain fat more easily and more. This way she created a portrait using the 3D Basel Morphable module. After she gained a portrait in the program, it was printed in a 3D printer to make an actual 3D head of the stranger that left his gum behind. You can see some more in her website. She even created one of herself.
Of Course, DNA alone can not tell everything about us. Even if we had a whole database of connections between DNA and facial features, These portraits would not cover attributes that has to do with the genes functions that are not bounded to the DNA itself, but from environmental changes to it. The artist say that an investigator recently talked to her in hope she can make a portrait of a woman thats been missing for 20 years. He hopes the portrait will spill some new light on the case.