Published on 3 August, 2020
Your small bundle of joy will start changing in appearance from the moment you first meet. His hair might change colors in the first few years. Her eyes might twinkle differently after the first few months. And growing is definitely on the to-do list.
It makes you wonder, what will my baby look like all grown up?
Peeking Into the Future With DNA
Will he have his father’s toes? Will she have her mother’s nose? The answers begin with the biological code that makes up the fabric of each person: DNA. DNA—if you remember from biology class—contains the information for the development and function of every cell.
So, yes, the secret to the shape of your nose and toes are confined within this string of polynucleotides, as well as eye color, hair color, dimpled cheeks, cleft chin, and so much more.
A child will have part of his DNA from mom and part of his DNA from dad. But it’s not as simple as taking the “average” between the two parents. It’s also not as simple as “dominant” and “recessive” traits.
The Role of Genetics: A Complex Combination of Parents
The role that genes (or, strings of DNA that code for proteins) play in your child’s looks is incredibly complex. Take hair color, for example.
Say mom has dark brown hair and dad has bright blonde hair.
The average between the two parents would mean that the child would have dirty blonde or light brown hair. But this isn’t always the case.
The theory of dominant and recessive traits uses a technique called Punnett Squares to determine the outcome of the offspring. Dark hair is considered the dominant trait, blonde hair the recessive gene. If mom has a recessive blonde hair trait, then the child could have a 50% chance of turning out blonde like dad and 50% chance of turning out brunette like mom. If mom doesn’t have a recessive blonde trait, then the child would have a 100% chance of turning out brunette. Yet, if you know any blonde and dark hair couples with children, you know that this also isn’t the whole story.
So, what’s going on in this common example? Where’s the missing link?
Most physical traits are not determined by one gene—instead, they’re polygenic, determined by many genes. For instance, hair color is determined by dozens of genes. Adult height is determined by thousands.
Each physical attribute of a child is determined by the parents, but in a multi-faceted way. If you want to identify what your baby will look like as an adult, the most comprehensive method involves looking at his or her unique DNA.
DNA Tests and How They Can Determine Your Baby’s Look
DNA is found in every cell of the human body—except red blood cells which lack a nucleus to house DNA—and nearly all cells have identical DNA. Which means you can use any human cell to perform a DNA test. Have you ever wondered “will my baby’s eyes stay blue” or “how tall will my child be?” Easy-to-collect skin cells can tell you about eye color, saliva can determine height, blood can tell you about freckling. They all contain the DNA needed to determine the genetic code of the entire person. Even tears contain “shed cells” which hold DNA (though tears don’t make for the easiest sample to test or collect!) and could tell you if your newborn baby will have red hair or green eyes.
As a parent, you want to know what your baby will look like as she grows up. And while there’s something to be said about the element of surprise—there’s also the fun and joy in discovering now how your child will look when she’s older, as well as the excitement of comparing her traits with yours.
That’s why the SneakPeek Traits Early DNA Test is launching this fall.
With this type of NIPT test, you’ll be able to determine the physical attributes of your child by simply rubbing a swab on his or her inner cheek and sending in the sample in a pre-paid envelope. It’s pain-free, scientifically-validated, and with the fast results, you’ll know your infant or child’s:
- Adult height
- Hair color, shape, and thickness
- Eye color and iris pattern
- Skin pigmentation and freckling
- Nose size
- And so much more
Using cutting-edge research and gene-identification techniques, SneakPeek Traits determines which genes are present and active, then compiles this information together to form a comprehensive picture. If you’re wondering “what color hair will my baby have,” you can get your answer with SneakPeek Traits.
How many genes contribute to each physical characteristic?
There are more than 3,000 genes that go into adult height—each one having little effect on their own. Dr Jian Yang, a researcher at Queensland Brain Institute, estimates that even the largest effect from one gene is measured to be as little as 5 millimeters.
Hair color, shape, and thickness are all controlled by different sets of genes. Hair color, for example, has more than 20 genes that affect the production of eumelanin and pheomelanin, the two types of melanin (or pigmentation) of hair. Hair texture is determined by more than a dozen genes. Four of those influence hair shape (e.g., curly or straight).
Similar to hair, eye color and iris patterns are determined by different sets of genes. Eye color, for example, has two primary genes, HERC2 and OCA2, that heavily influence the pigmentation of eyes (however there are 14 other genes that also play a role).
Skin Pigmentation and Freckling
The mc1r gene plays a large role in skin pigmentation and freckling (as well as hair color). However it is only 1 in 378 genes that affect a person’s skin complexion, according to the International Federation of Pigment Cell Society.
Scientists have found four different genes that play a role in the pointedness and width of nose size. Those genes include: DCHS2, RUNX2, GLI3, and PAX1.
Other Factors That Change Looks
While genes play the primary role in the physical attributes of each person, there are other factors that can change how your baby will look, such as:
- Nutrition – Malnutrition can negatively affect a person’s health, whether it’s not enough food or an unbalanced diet. This can prevent a child from reaching his maximum potential height.
- Fluctuating hormones – As your baby becomes a toddler, his hormones fluctuate, potentially causing his hair to change color. This fluctuation in hormones is not caused by genes; it’s a symptom of aging. The change in hair color is often seen in blonde haired babies turning into brunette youngsters.
- Environmental factors – A baby’s eyes can change from blue to hazel, green, or to brown eyes as they acquaint themselves to the UV rays of the sun. This change often happens between the ages of six months and three years.
Putting This All Together: Genetics and Other Factors
While there are additional factors that contribute to your baby’s looks, genetic inheritance is the one with the largest impact, and the most accurate way to get a glimpse into the future.
Think of the journey of your baby’s growth like a map. It shows the starting place and the destination. These are his genes. Barring any significant life event, he will end up at the destination and grow up to be the person his genes identified him to be.
There can, however, be roadblocks on this journey that cause a detour. Maybe your child’s genes determine that she should have dark brown hair, but due to a love of swimming and surfing, her hair is always bleached to a light brown color. Or if you live near an airport and it causes disruption to sleep over a long period of time, this could affect your child’s height. Because growth hormones are primarily secreted during sleep, this could prevent her from growing to her full potential.
Genes, then, determine the boundary of physical attributes. If genes determine the tallest a child can grow is six feet, then diet and environmental factors won’t allow him to extend beyond that limit, they can only negatively detract.
Will My Baby Look More Like Mom or Dad?
Because 50% of a baby’s genes will come from mom and 50% from dad, you might think the baby will look like an exact mix of both of you. But it’s more likely that she will have a blend that causes her to look more like one parent or the other, or she inherits different traits from each parent. She might have her father’s mane and her mother’s button nose. Or he might have his mom’s chin and his dad’s eyes.
Only with a DNA test will you be able to see how your future baby will look as he or she ages—or, of course, you can wait patiently all those years.
The SneakPeek Early Traits DNA Test: Discover More Than The Physical
While it’s incredibly fun to discover what your baby will look like as he ages, the SneakPeek Early Traits DNA Test also empowers you with the information needed to give your child the best life possible.
Beyond physical traits like height, eye color, and hair color, you can also learn about your child’s nutritional profile. You’ll know whether your child is likely to have low, average, or above average vitamin levels which allows you to better prepare meals for her. You can also learn about her sleep profile to ensure she gets all the zzz’s she needs to grow up healthy.
Give your child the best life possible by sneaking a peek into her future.
SneakPeek Traits will be available this fall.
Genome News Network. DNA. http://www.genomenewsnetwork.org/resources/whats_a_genome/Chp1_4_1.shtml
Palomar EDU. Probability of Inheritance. https://www2.palomar.edu/anthro/mendel/mendel_2.htm
NIH. Is hair color determined by genetics? https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/primer/traits/haircolor
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NIH. Is hair texture determined by genetics? https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/primer/traits/hairtexture
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