Saturday, December 5, 2020

Why Some People Don’t Develop Fingerprints

Must read

Police asked this 3D printing lab to recreate a dead man’s fingers to unlock his phone

Last month, law enforcement officers showed up at the lab of Anil Jain, a professor at Michigan State University. Jain wasn’t in trouble; the...

Linking a person’s appearance with criminality highlights the technical and ethical limits of face recognition

WHAT can your face say about you? Face recognition systems can pick up on things like age, gender and maybe even your mood. Now, two...

Grim Sleeper defense says DNA in some cases points to another suspect

Since Los Angeles police first announced that they had made an arrest in the hunt for the so-called Grim Sleeper serial killer, the case...

Are Detectives discounting the associative value of fingerprints that fall short of an identification in their investigations?

Every day, Fingerprint Experts in every latent office across the globe examine fingermarks that they determine to fall short of an identification....
Michael Whyte
Crime Scene Officer and Fingerprint Expert with over 7 years experience in Crime Scene Investigation and Latent Print Analysis. The opinions or assertions contained on this site are the private views of the author and are not to be construed as those of any professional organisation or policing body.
- Forensic Podcast -

In 2007, a Swiss woman in her late 20s had an unusually hard time crossing the U.S. border. Customs agents could not confirm her identity. The woman’s passport picture matched her face just fine, but when the agents scanned her hands, they discovered something shocking: she had no fingerprints.

The woman, it turns out, had an extremely rare condition known as adermatoglyphia. Peter Itin, a dermatologist at the University Hospital Basel in Switzerland, has dubbed it the “immigration delay disease” because sufferers have such a hard time entering foreign countries. In addition to smooth fingertips, they also produce less hand sweat than the average person. Yet scientists know very little about what causes the condition.

Since nine members of the woman’s extended family also lacked fingerprints, Itin and his colleagues, including Eli Sprecher, a dermatologist at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center in Israel, suspected that the cause might be genetic. So they collected DNA from the family—one of only four ever documented with ADG—and compared the genomes of family members with ADG with those of members who had normal fingerprints. The researchers found differences in 17 regions that were close to genes. Then they sequenced these genes, expecting to identify the culprit.

But the researchers didn’t find anything. At first, Sprecher suspected that either they had performed the genetic analysis incorrectly or the missing mutation was hiding in a noncoding or “junk” region of the genome. “Then came the trick,” he says. When graduate student Janna Nousbeck sifted through online databases of rare DNA transcripts that came from the suspect regions, she noticed one very short sequence that overlapped with part of a gene called SMARCAD1. This gene seemed like a likely candidate for the mutation since it was only expressed in the skin.

When the researchers sequenced SMARCAD1, their suspicions were confirmed: The gene was mutated in the fingerprintless family members, but not in the other family members. The mutation isn’t in a region of the gene that codes for the SMARCAD1 protein; instead it’s near a key splicing site that prevents SMARCAD1 from being made correctly, the researchers report today in The American Journal of Human Genetics.

Sprecher’s next mission is to find out what exactly the function of SMARCAD1 is and how it contributes to the formation of fingerprint patterns, another unsolved mystery. But the researchers think that the gene might help skin cells fold over one another early in fetal development.

Terry Reed, a molecular geneticist at Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis, who has also studied ADG, says that he is unsure whether SMARCAD1 is responsible for every patient who lacks fingerprints. He says he plans to sequence the gene from one of his own ADG patients. But he says that it’s “gratifying to at least see a gene identified for this condition” and hopes it may help researchers understand skin development in general.

Source: ScienceMag

- Advertisement -

More articles

- Advertisement -

Latest article

Trees and shrubs might reveal the location of decomposing bodies

Plants could help investigators find dead bodies. Botanists believe the sudden flush of nutrients into the soil from decomposition may affect nearby foliage. If...

Are Detectives discounting the associative value of fingerprints that fall short of an identification in their investigations?

Every day, Fingerprint Experts in every latent office across the globe examine fingermarks that they determine to fall short of an identification....

Using the NCIC Bayesian Network to improve your AFIS searches

This National Crime Information Centre (NCIC) Bayesian network is based on the statistical data of general patterns of fingerprints on the hands...

DNA decontamination of fingerprint brushes

Using fingerprint brushes across multiple crime scenes yields a high risk of DNA cross-contamination. Thankfully an Australian study has discovered a quick and easy way to safely decontaminate fingerprint brushes to prevent this contamination risk and allows the brushes to be safely reused even after multiple cleaning cycles.

Detection of latent fingerprint hidden beneath adhesive tape by optical coherence tomography

Adhesive tape is a common item which can be encountered in criminal cases involving rape, murder, kidnapping and explosives. It is often the case...