A marker on the fingertips present at birth may predict adult-onset diabetes, according to a study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology .
Dermatoglyphics, the study of skin markings made by ridges on hands and feet, is used as a way of measuring gene expression determined by the early pre-birth environment. On each fingertip, the number of dermal ridges (the ridge count) provides a measure of fingertip growth activity during the early foetal period. These dermal ridges are formed during gestational weeks 12–19, and the resulting fingertip ridge appearance (i.e., the fingerprint) is fixed permanently.
Changes in the uterine environment can influence the activity of genes which either stimulate or inhibit growth of specific areas of the body. According to the study by Kahn and colleagues, those with specific dermatoglyphic patterns were more likely to develop type 2 diabetes after the age of 50, even when other influencing factors were taken into account. The ratio of the difference between the number of ridges on the thumb and 5th finger is one way of predicting the probability of an individual developing diabetes in later life:
Fingerprints may provide a useful tool to investigate prenatal developmental plasticity.
Epigenetics, or the influence of environment on gene expression, has become recognised as an influencing factor in type 2 diabetes . Other body measurements predicting similar disease risk, such as the waist-to-thigh ratio, are also correlated with fingertip ridge counts . Evidence for the significance of epigenetic influences during early prenatal life is compelling, and should be used as the basis for a preventive strategy starting before conception. Dermatoglyphics is used in The GenoType Diet, along with other markers of gene expression, not only to predict future disease risks, but to target specific prevention strategies.
1. Kahn HS, Graff M, Stein AD, Lumey LH. "A fingerprint marker from early gestation associated with diabetes in middle age: the Dutch Hunger Winter Families Study." Int J Epidemiol. 2009 Feb;38(1):101-9.
2. Ling C, Groop L. "Epigenetics: a molecular link between environmental factors and type 2 diabetes." Diabetes. 2009 Dec;58(12):2718-25.
3. Kahn HS, Graff M, Stein AD, Zybert PA, McKeague IW, Lumey LH. "A fingerprint characteristic associated with the early prenatal environment." Am J Hum Biol. 2008 Jan-Feb;20(1):59-65.