Like DNA, fingerprints are unique to each person or set of identical twins. That makes them a valuable identification tool for everything from crime detection to international travel. But what happens when the tips of our fingers are missing those distinctive patterns of ridges?
It's not the premise for a science fiction movie, but a real-life condition known as adermatoglyphia. It's also known as "Immigration Delay Disease," because affected individuals experience difficulty in passing through security or checkpoints where fingerprint identification is required. Now Prof. Eli Sprecher of Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center has identified the genetic mutation responsible for this unusual condition.
Though adermatoglyphia itself is extremely rare, defects that stem from any one genetic mutation give researchers unique insights into the most complex biological phenomena, such as the consequences of lacking a single protein.
The findings have been published in the American Journal of Human Genetics.
Baffling border control
"Immigration Delay Disease" came to the attention of the medical community when it did just that — delay the attempts of one Swiss woman to cross the border into the United States, which requires that non-citizens be fingerprinted upon entry. Border control personnel were mystified when the woman informed them that she was unable to comply.
Though an exceptionally rare condition — only four documented families are known to suffer from the disease worldwide — Prof. Sprecher was inspired to delve deeper into the causes of the condition, which, in addition to causing an absence of fingerprints, also leads to a reduction in the number of sweat glands. Abnormal fingerprints can also be a warning sign of more severe disorders.
Scientists know that fingerprints are fully formed 24 weeks after fertilization, and do not change throughout our lives. But "the factors underlying the formation and pattern of fingerprints during embryonic development are largely unknown," says Prof. Sprecher. He adds that it isn't only fingertips that have patterned skin — palms, toes, and the soles of the feet also feature these ridges, called dermatoglyphs.
To determine the cause of this rare condition, the researchers did a genetic analysis of the Swiss family, nine of whom have no fingerprints. They compared the genes of those with adermatoglyphia and those without to identify where the genetic alteration lies. They discovered that a skin-specific version of the gene SMARCAD1 has a regulating factor on fingerprint development. The group that presented with adermatoglyphia, Prof. Sprecher explains, were found to have decreased levels of the short skin-specific version of the gene.
An inconvenience, but little more
Now that this gene has been identified, researchers will be able to further investigate how SMARCAD1 regulates fingerprint development. While adermatoglyphia may be intriguing, and can certainly be problematic for border security, it's also non-threatening. Despite the minor issue of the hand's inability to produce sweat, says Prof. Sprecher, those affected do not otherwise suffer.
This research was carried out in collaboration with Dr. Janna Nousbeck of the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center and Prof. Peter Itin of the University Hospital at Basel, Switzerland.
George Hunka | EurekAlert!
Study shines light on brain cells that coordinate movement
26.06.2017 | University of Washington Health Sciences/UW Medicine
New insight into a central biological dogma on ion transport
26.06.2017 | Aarhus University
An international team of scientists has proposed a new multi-disciplinary approach in which an array of new technologies will allow us to map biodiversity and the risks that wildlife is facing at the scale of whole landscapes. The findings are published in Nature Ecology and Evolution. This international research is led by the Kunming Institute of Zoology from China, University of East Anglia, University of Leicester and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research.
Using a combination of satellite and ground data, the team proposes that it is now possible to map biodiversity with an accuracy that has not been previously...
Heatwaves in the Arctic, longer periods of vegetation in Europe, severe floods in West Africa – starting in 2021, scientists want to explore the emissions of the greenhouse gas methane with the German-French satellite MERLIN. This is made possible by a new robust laser system of the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT in Aachen, which achieves unprecedented measurement accuracy.
Methane is primarily the result of the decomposition of organic matter. The gas has a 25 times greater warming potential than carbon dioxide, but is not as...
Hydrogen is regarded as the energy source of the future: It is produced with solar power and can be used to generate heat and electricity in fuel cells. Empa researchers have now succeeded in decoding the movement of hydrogen ions in crystals – a key step towards more efficient energy conversion in the hydrogen industry of tomorrow.
As charge carriers, electrons and ions play the leading role in electrochemical energy storage devices and converters such as batteries and fuel cells. Proton...
Scientists from the Excellence Cluster Universe at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich have establised "Cosmowebportal", a unique data centre for cosmological simulations located at the Leibniz Supercomputing Centre (LRZ) of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. The complete results of a series of large hydrodynamical cosmological simulations are available, with data volumes typically exceeding several hundred terabytes. Scientists worldwide can interactively explore these complex simulations via a web interface and directly access the results.
With current telescopes, scientists can observe our Universe’s galaxies and galaxy clusters and their distribution along an invisible cosmic web. From the...
Temperature measurements possible even on the smallest scale / Molecular ruby for use in material sciences, biology, and medicine
Chemists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in cooperation with researchers of the German Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing (BAM)...
19.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
13.06.2017 | Event News
26.06.2017 | Life Sciences
26.06.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
26.06.2017 | Information Technology