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Researchers identify 'beauty spots' in the genome

Genome-wide association study finds the impact of genes underlying facial beauty varies by sex

PLOS

Genes play a role in determining the beauty of a person's face, but that role varies with the person's sex, according to a new study by Qiongshi Lu and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, published 4th April in PLOS Genetics.

Humans tend to be preoccupied with beauty - a person's attractiveness is associated with academic performance, career success and economic mobility. But despite its importance, scientists know little about the genetic basis for having a pretty face. In the current work, researchers performed a genome-wide association study using genetic information from 4,383 individuals to pinpoint parts of the genome linked to facial beauty. They had volunteers score yearbook photos based on attractiveness from participants with European ancestry and compared the scores to each person's genetic information. The researchers identified several genes related to facial attractiveness, but their roles and relatedness to other human traits varied by sex. In women, certain genetic variations linked to beauty also appeared to be related to genes impacting body mass, while in males, variants were linked to genes affecting blood cholesterol levels.

The study provides new insights into the genetic factors underlying facial attractiveness and highlights the complex relationships between beauty and other human traits. "Similar to many other human traits, there is not a 'master gene' that determines a person's attractiveness," author Qiongshi Lu observed. "Instead, it is most likely associated with a large number of genetic components with weak effects. Interestingly, sex-specificity is a recurrent pattern observed in almost all the analyses in our study." The researchers acknowledge, however, that their findings are based on a homogenous group of individuals of the same age and ethnic background. They propose that future analyses including a larger sample size of people from diverse populations and ages will further advance our understanding of this highly valued human trait.

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Peer-reviewed / Observational study / People

In your coverage please use this URL to provide access to the freely available article in PLOS Genetics: http://journals.plos.org/plosgenetics/article?id=10.1371/journal.pgen.1007973

Citation: Hu B, Shen N, Li JJ, Kang H, Hong J, Fletcher J, et al. (2019) Genome-wide association study reveals sex-specific genetic architecture of facial attractiveness. PLoS Genet 15(4): e1007973. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pgen.1007973

Funding: This study was supported by the Clinical and Translational Science Award (CTSA) program, through the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS), grant UL1TR000427. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

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