Q&A: Palm Reading’s Not a Myth? What Fingerprints Can Tell Us About Limb Development

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Come, come! Enter my ancient and mysterious tent where I can tell you your fears, dreams, and futures with only a glance at the palm of your hand. Well…maybe not exactly, but I could tell you about the expression of your gene, EV11. A group of scientists from the International Human Phenome Project decided to compare people’s fingerprints to their genomes. They found forty-three regions of interest but focused on the EV11 gene, which is involved in regulating how your limbs develop in the womb. So instead of your future, fingerprints may actually reveal the length of your fingers or your risk of leukemia. Fingerprint readings are a serious business. Certain patterns on your hands, such as skin patterning or palm creases, are associated with congenital genetic disorders like Down’s syndrome. These interrelated traits suggest that genes associated with fingerprint development are pleiotropic, meaning that the same genes affect multiple traits with different phenotypes. These scientists plan to further investigate how exactly this pleiotropic mechanism works. Perhaps fingerprints could be used as a diagnostic tool in the future. So, I may not be able to read your future by studying your palms, but by studying your fingertips, I could tell you about your embryonic limb development. And that’s pretty cool.