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A new software application can predict appearance and ancestry from forensic DNA samples, and could help police teams solve complex cases.

Snapshot is a new forensic DNA analysis service that accurately predicts the physical appearance and ancestry of an unknown person from DNA, according to the company’s website. It can also determine kinship between DNA samples out to six degrees of relatedness. Snapshot is ideal for generating investigative leads, narrowing suspect lists, and identifying unknown remains.

Starting with extracted DNA or biological evidence, the technology will produce a detailed Snapshot report and composite profile that includes eye color, skin color, hair color, face shape, detailed biogeographic ancestry, freckling etc. in individuals from any ethnic background, even individuals with mixed ancestry.

Armed with this description, one can conduct your investigation more efficiently and close cases more quickly.

DNA Phenotyping is the prediction of physical appearance from DNA. DNA carries the genetic instruction set for an individual’s physical characteristics, producing the wide range of appearances among people. By determining how genetic information translates into physical appearance, it is possible to “reverse-engineer” DNA into a physical profile. Snapshot reads tens of thousands of genetic variants (“genotypes”) from a DNA sample and uses this information to predict what an unknown person looks like.

Over the past four years, using deep data mining and advanced machine learning algorithms in a specialized bioinformatics pipeline, Parabon — with funding support from the US Department of Defense (DoD) — developed the Snapshot Forensic DNA Phenotyping System.