Genetically Stylish Heads

Genetically stylish heads rock the most fashionable hats!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Have you ever wondered why people’s heads are shaped differently? The portion of the skull that protects the brain is the cranial vault. Its shape is inheritable and can have implications on health. But WHY is it so variable?

Enter Seppe Goovaerts and team from KU Leuven in Belgium. They analyzed the genes involved in shaping our heads.

They obtained 3D head scans from more than SIX THOUSAND children. They divided cranial vault surfaces into smaller pieces to measure their shapes. Finally, they compared these surface measurements to over TEN MILLION genetic variants.

Results? Head shape was correlated to thirty parts of the human genome. Only ONE of them was previously known! These genetic regions are also correlated with risk for diseases related to skull shape.

This could shed light on the origin of congenital head malformations.

But it can’t make fedoras cool. Or bucket hats. Ew.

Reference: Goovaerts, S., Hoskens, H., Eller, R. J., Herrick, N., Musolf, A. M., Justice, C. M., Yuan, M., Naqvi, S., Lee, M. K., Vandermeulen, D., Szabo-Rogers, H. L., Romitti, P. A., Boyadjiev, S. A., Marazita, M. L., Shaffer, J. R., Shriver, M. D., Wysocka, J., Walsh, S., Weinberg, S. M., & Claes, P. (2023). Joint multi-ancestry and admixed GWAS reveals the complex genetics behind human cranial vault shape. Nature communications, 14(1), 7436.