Overcoming the limits of rare disease matching using facial phenotypic descriptors


The majority of monogenic disorders cause craniofacial abnormalities with characteristic facial morphology. These disorders can be diagnosed more quickly by using computer-aided next-generation phenotyping tools, such as DeepGestalt. These tools have learned to associate facial phenotypes with the underlying syndrome through training on thousands of patient photographs. However, this “supervised” approach means that diagnoses are only possible if they were part of the training set. To improve recognition of ultra-rare diseases, we created GestaltMatcher, which uses a deep convolutional neural network based on the DeepGestalt framework. We used photographs of 21,558 patients with 1,395 rare disorders to define a “Clinical Face Phenotype Space”. Distance between cases in the phenotype space defines syndromic similarity, allowing test patients to be matched to a molecular diagnosis even when the disorder was not part of the training set. Similarities among patients with previously unknown disease genes can also be detected. Therefore, in concert with mutation data, GestaltMatcher could accelerate the clinical diagnosis of patients with ultra-rare disorders and facial dysmorphism.

What is GestaltMatcher?

GestaltMatcher enables clinicians to match patients with facial similarity and thus, possibly diagnose patients with an ultra-rare disorder, or delineate a new syndrome in similar patients. Currently, this new algorithm can be tested in its Beta form through Face2Gene.