A fingerprint characteristic associated with the early prenatal environment

Division of Diabetes Translation, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia 30341, USA.
American Journal of Human Biology (Impact Factor: 1.7). 01/2008; 20(1):59-65. DOI: 10.1002/ajhb.20672
Source: PubMed


Fingerprints and fingertip ridge counts (RCs) have a significant genetic component. However, they also reflect the nongenetic environment of early pregnancy, an important time window for tissue differentiation and organogenesis. Fingerprints are permanently configured before the 20th week of gestation, and each fingertip's RC is related to the growth and regression of its early fetal volar pads. Rostral and caudal aspects of the embryonic limb bud have different relations to somite segments and to morphogen-activator functions. We hypothesized, therefore, that early fetal circumstances would be associated with a contrast in RCs between the thumb (digit 1) and little finger (digit 5). We obtained RCs from the fingerprints of a sample of 658 Dutch adults identified through prenatal and delivery records of Dutch urban births occurring during 1943-1947, an historical era that included months of wartime disruption with a winter famine. We calculated the mean of left- and right-hand RC differences between digits 1 and 5 (Md15). The Md15 fluctuated in relation to the calendar season of the mother's last menstrual period, but only if the gestation occurred outside of the wartime disruption interval. If the gestation occurred during the disruption interval, the Md15 seasonal fluctuation was not evident. This finding suggests that parental environmental factors may influence the fingerprints of the offspring. Fingerprint RC differences observed in postnatal life may be useful in the study of metabolic or anatomic programming related to the early prenatal environment.

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    • "Although ridge breadth is of biological, medical [10] [11] [12] [13] [14] [15] [16] [17] [18], and genetic interest, variation in ridge breadth has not received as much attention as other dermatoglyphic characteristics such as general pattern type. Surprisingly, few systematic studies have been carried out on the changes that these undergo during pre-and postnatal development [3,5,7–9,19]. "
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    ABSTRACT: Despite the fact that variation in ridge breadth is of biological, medical, and genetic interest, it has not received as much attention as other dermatoglyphic characteristics. Recently, sex differences in mean epidermal ridge breadth have been proposed in the field of forensic identification in order to infer gender from fingerprints found at the scene of a crime left by an unknown donor. The aim of this research was to analyze sexual, bimanual, and topological variations in epidermal ridge breadth on palmprints taken from a Spanish population sample for subsequent application in inferring gender from the palm marks. The material used in the present study was obtained from the palmprints of 200 individuals (100 males and 100 females) from the Caucasian Spanish. Since ridge breadth varies according to age, subjects of similar ages were recruited to ensure that growth had finished. Therefore, in order to assess topological variation in ridge density or number of ridges in a given space, the count was carried out for the five palmar areas: hypothenar, thenar/first interdigital, second interdigital, third interdigital, and fourth interdigital. This allowed the segmentation of 2000 ridge count areas for analysis. For this, two methods were used, one described by Cummins et al. (the ridge count was carried out along a 1cm line) and the other by Acree (the number of ridges per 25mm(2) of surface area). The results obtained by the second method can be compared with those obtained for the ten fingers from this same sample and evaluated in a previous study. The results have demonstrated the existence of topological differences in ridge thickness on the epidermal palm surface; also females present a significantly higher ridge density than men and, therefore, have narrower ridges over the entire palmar surface. Those sexual differences found in the sample population can be used for inferring the gender from palm marks left by an unknown donor. The hypotheses that could explain the variability in ridge breadth are evaluated according to the obtained results.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2013 · Forensic science international
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    • "We have previously shown that the fingertip ridge count, similarly fixed by mid-gestation (Babler 1991), is affected both by seasonal factors at the time of conception and by exposure to acute severe undernutrition at the time of conception (Kahn et al., 2008). If the 2D:4D ratio can be shown to be related to specific fetal exposures, it too might serve as a stable proxy for gestational exposures that might then be assessed at any stage over the life-course. "
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    ABSTRACT: Digit lengths, and in particular the ratio of the 2nd (2D) to 4th (4D) digit (2D:4D), are stable in adulthood and have been linked to characteristics thought to have developmental origins, but little research has focused on early life determinants of these measures. We examined whether exposure to acute famine during specific periods of gestation was associated with 2D, 4D or the 2D:4D ratio. We studied men and women (1) born in one of three hospitals in western Netherlands whose mothers were exposed to a limited period of famine immediately prior to or during the pregnancy (n = 337); (2) born in the same hospitals to mothers not exposed to famine during the pregnancy (n = 271) or same-sex siblings of individuals in Groups 1 and 2 (n = 295). We measured 2D and 4D on both hands using calipers and computed the 2D:4D ratio. Mean 2D and 4D lengths were 73.5 (SD 5.1) and 75.0 (5.4) mm, respectively. The 2D:4D ratio was 0.981 (SD 0.030). Both 2D and 4D were associated with male gender and height (all P < 0.001), and weakly with BMI. The 2D:4D ratio was 0.0070 (95% confidence interval 0.0017, 0.0123) lower among males as compared with females, and was not significantly associated with height (0.0002 per cm; 95% -0.0001, 0.0005). The 2D:4D ratio was not significantly associated with exposure to famine, overall (-0.0010, 95% CI 0.0030, 0.0050) or within any period of gestation. The 2D:4D ratio is not significantly affected by prenatal exposure to famine and therefore is not a useful marker for generalized prenatal undernutrition.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2010 · American Journal of Human Biology
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    • "Evaluating the time depth and information content of cues requires information on maternal experience prior to pregnancy, ideally collected at different ages of her prereproductive life. Creative use of historical records (e.g., Clarkin 2008) or other retrospective measures, such as leg length (Lawlor et al. 2003), fingerprint patterns (Kahn et al. 2008), and epigenetic markings in different cell lines (Waterland and Michels 2007), show promise as proxies for reconstructing maternal experiential history. We anticipate other innovative strategies to help bring the study of maternal history to developmental programming research. "
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    ABSTRACT: Many biological systems have critical periods that overlap with the age of maternal provisioning via placenta or lactation. As such, they serve as conduits for phenotypic information transfer between generations and link maternal experience with offspring biology and disease outcomes. This review critically evaluates proposals for an adaptive function of these responses in humans. Although most models assume an adult function for the metabolic responses to nutritional stress, these specific traits have more likely been tailored for effects during fetal life and infancy. Other biological functions are under stronger evolutionary selection later in life and thus are better candidates for predictive plasticity. Given the long human life cycle and environmental changes that are unpredictable on decadal timescales, plastic responses that evolved to confer benefits in adolescence or adulthood likely rely on cues that integrate matrilineal experiences prior to gestation. We conclude with strategies for testing the timescale and adaptive significance of developmental responses to early environments.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2009 · Annual Review of Anthropology
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