Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Genetic defect that leaves some without fingerprints: Researchers trace cause to rare mutation

Date:
September 19, 2011
Source:
American Friends of Tel Aviv University
Summary:
Adermatoglypia, which leaves some individuals without fingerprints, is an exceedingly rare condition. Now researchers have traced the cause of the condition to a genetic mutation that affects only four documented families in the world. Despite the mutation's scarcity, the research provides unique insights into the most complex biological phenomena, such as the consequences of lacking a single protein.

Fingerprinting.
Credit: iStockphoto

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 when she was required to 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.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Friends of Tel Aviv University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Janna Nousbeck, Bettina Burger, Dana Fuchs-Telem, Mor Pavlovsky, Shlomit Fenig, Ofer Sarig, Peter Itin, Eli Sprecher. A Mutation in a Skin-Specific Isoform of SMARCAD1 Causes Autosomal-Dominant Adermatoglyphia. The American Journal of Human Genetics, 2011; 89 (2): 302 DOI: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2011.07.004

Cite This Page:

American Friends of Tel Aviv University. "Genetic defect that leaves some without fingerprints: Researchers trace cause to rare mutation." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110919074249.htm>.
American Friends of Tel Aviv University. (2011, September 19). Genetic defect that leaves some without fingerprints: Researchers trace cause to rare mutation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110919074249.htm
American Friends of Tel Aviv University. "Genetic defect that leaves some without fingerprints: Researchers trace cause to rare mutation." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110919074249.htm (accessed August 1, 2014).

Share This




More Health & Medicine News

Friday, August 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Texas Quintuplets Head Home

Texas Quintuplets Head Home

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 1, 2014) After four months in the hospital, the first quintuplets to be born at Baylor University Medical Center head home. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Patient Coming to U.S. for Treatment

Ebola Patient Coming to U.S. for Treatment

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 1, 2014) A U.S. aid worker infected with Ebola while working in West Africa will be treated in a high security ward at Emory University in Atlanta. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Vaccine Might Be Coming, But Where's It Been?

Ebola Vaccine Might Be Coming, But Where's It Been?

Newsy (Aug. 1, 2014) Health officials are working to fast-track a vaccine — the West-African Ebola outbreak has killed more than 700. But why didn't we already have one? Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Study Links Certain Birth Control Pills To Breast Cancer

Study Links Certain Birth Control Pills To Breast Cancer

Newsy (Aug. 1, 2014) Previous studies have made the link between birth control and breast cancer, but the latest makes the link to high-estrogen oral contraceptives. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins