I’m sure you’ve heard at least a piece here and there about the advance of personal genomics. Get the sequence of you genome, figure out what diseases you might be hiding. Yada yada. We’ll get into that some other time. With all that out there, you might guess we could tell you from your DNA what your hair color is. In fact, it is not.
Predicting any complex trait is far from easy – so take an extra beat if you ever think of getting your own genes sequenced to see if you’re at risk for, say, heart disease. There’s a relatively low number of traits and diseases that are decided by one gene. Many diseases are affected by a number of factors, just as do qualitative traits such as height and weight. Being able to predict these outputs would obviously be highly beneficial to medicine when talking about disease, but another field would benefit just as much – forensics. In a paper published online Jan.4.2011 in Human Genetics, a team led by researchers at the Forensics Research Institute in Poland built a model allowing them to predict hair color from genetic material with high accuracy.