Science

A Nose By Any Other Name, It’s Your Nose

Scientists are confidant that they have isolated the gene(s) responsible for nose shape, which essentially rubbishes past theories about nose shape being more an evolutionary thing than simply a trigger activated in the womb.

A Nose By Any Other Name, It's Your Nose

University College London leads nose shape study

Your nose, is your nose due to the interplay of four genes; a fifth essentially describes your chin from birth. A new study published in the journal Nature Communications on Friday, shows that prior suggestions that thought environment dictated nose girth, shape, pointiness, among other traits were a bit, well, wrong.

This latest research was conducted by UCL with funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). The researchers used the DNA and observations of the faces of over 6,000 people of varied ancestry in Latin America (mixed European (50%), Native American (45%) and African (5%)).

What they were able to accomplish was an understanding that four genes, which effectively determine what our noses will look like from birth, and over time. The genes in question: DCHS2, RUNX2, GLI3, and PAX1, don’t leave a lot of room for ambiguity.

The study also identified a gene responsible for chin formation, but let’s get back to the schnoz.

The reasons behind the study being conducted on a Latin American population are simple.

“Few studies have looked at how normal facial features develop and those that have only looked at European populations, which show less diversity than the group we studied. What we’ve found are specific genes which influence the shape and size of individual features, which hasn’t been seen before, said first author of the study, Dr. Kaustubh Adhikari, UCL Cell & Developmental Biology.

“Finding out the role each gene plays helps us to piece together the evolutionary path from Neanderthal to modern humans. It brings us closer to understanding how genes influence the way we look, which is important for forensics applications,”the doctor continued.

Genetics and evolution are not mutually exclusive but work in tandem

Genetics explain your nose. Environment, over time, has a direct effect on the genes you pass on to your offspring. The aforementioned genes responsible for the formation and appearance of the nose have changed over time to regulate both the humidity and the temperature of the air that humans breathe in their particular climates.

“It has long been speculated that the shape of the nose reflects the environment in which humans evolved. For example, the comparatively narrower nose of Europeans has been proposed to represent an adaptation to a cold, dry climate. Identifying genes affecting nose shape provides us with new tools to examine this question, as well as the evolution of the face in other species. It may also help us understand what goes wrong in genetic disorders involving facial abnormalities,” said UCL Professor AndrĂ©s Ruiz-Linares who lead the study.

Each week, it seems, represents a new chapter in human genetics and evolution. Now that the human genome has been sequenced for well over a decade, researchers now get to bring out the fine-toothed comb.

Last week, a group of roughly 150 met behind closed doors at Harvard Medical College in order to speak to a plan to synthesize the human genome from scratch over the next ten years. These lawyers, government regulators, doctors, ethicists and others are going to change the world. UCL has simply explained why a nose by any other name is yours.