Defective gene can strip you of fingerprints

September 19th, 2011 - 6:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Sep 19 (IANS) Like DNA, fingerprints are unique to every individual. But what happens when your fingertips do not have those distinctive ridges?

Though an exceptionally rare condition — only four documented families are known to suffer from the disease worldwide, adermatoglyphia inspired a Tel Aviv professor to delve deeper into the causes of the condition and isolate the gene behind it.

Adermatoglyphia is also known as “Immigration Delay Disease” because such individuals face hurdles at security barriers or checkpoints where fingerprint is required.

Eli Sprecher of Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine has identified the genetic mutation responsible for this unusual condition, the American Journal of Human Genetics reports.

Sufferers of adermatoglyphia, Sprecher explains, were found to have decreased levels of the short skin-specific version of the gene SMARCAD1, according to a Tel Aviv statement.

“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 US, 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.

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.

Sprecher 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.

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