A fingerprint is unique for each person and it remains largely constant throughout one’s lifetime. Even identical twins have different fingerprints (due to slight differences in development in the womb). These special characteristics make fingerprints a useful means of personal identification.
Because of this, fingerprint scanning is not just a means of finding criminals, but has become a widely-used way to identify people generally. Prints have even been adopted by some countries to track and identify visitors.
Due to genetic mutation, some people have no fingerprints. This rare condition is known as Adermatoglyphia. Just imagine what it means not having fingerprints in a security conscious world where fingerprints are accepted as a very important proof of identity. No wonder this disorder has been nicknamed the “immigration delay disease”.
Only four or five families in the world are said to have members with the fingerprint-less condition.
Researchers from Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center in Israel who investigated a large Swiss family affected with Adermatoglyphia have tracked the disorder to a mutation in the gene SMARCAD1, which is only expressed in skin. According to the researchers, who published their findings in The American Journal of Human Genetics, people with Adermatoglyphia had shorter version of the SMARCAD1 gene.
Though it is believed that the full-length SMARCAD1 gene may be involved in skin cell folding in fetal development, the exact function of the gene and how it contributes to the formation of fingerprint patterns remain a mystery.
Commenting on the findings, which potentially solve the mystery of missing fingerprints, lead researcher Professor Eli Sprecher says, “As abnormal fingerprints are known to sometimes herald severe disorders, our finding may also impact the understanding of additional diseases affecting not only the skin.”