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The Faces of Discarded DNA

Artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg collected all sort of trash from New York City streets and subways: hair, gum, and cigarettes. But all of them contained traces of DNA that she used to create sculptures of the people that parted ways with those bits and bobs, RedOrbit says.

As she tells Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's The Approach, she then took those samples to Genspace, the DIY biology lab in Brooklyn, for analysis. After PCR amplification and sequencing of the samples, Dewey-Hagborg aligned the resulting reads with a particular focus on SNPs linked to physical appearance. She then fed that data into a program she wrote to make a three-dimensional model of the person's face. She then printed those models using a 3D printer.

"We are shedding our biological information all the time without knowing it," Dewey-Hagborg tells Popular Science. "I think anonymity should be a choice."

Building on that theme, for her project after "Stranger Visions," she developed a set of sprays: one that destroys DNA that's left behind and another that leaves behind a mix of DNA from 50 different sources, Pop Sci adds.

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