Daily Israel Report

Israeli Scientist Discovers Cause of Rare 'Fingerprint' Disease

An Israeli scientist at Tel Aviv University has discovered the rare genetic mutation that causes one to be born without fingerprints.
By Chana Ya'ar
First Publish: 9/20/2011, 2:16 AM

An Israeli scientist at Tel Aviv University has discovered the cause of a rare disease in which some babies are born without fingerprints, and a reduction in the number of sweat glands.

The condition, adermatoglypia – “Immigration Delay Disease” – is extremely rare, but can make life miserable for the people who have it.

According to Professor Eli Sprecher, at TAU's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, only four documented families have been affected by the genetic mutation in the entire world. The condition, although a nuisance, is not life-threatening.

Sprecher's research, carried out in collaboration with Dr. Janna Nousbeck of the Souasky Center, and Prof. Peter Itin of the University Hospital at Basel, Switzerland, has been published in the American Journal of Human Genetics.

The lack of a single protein, says Sprecher, is to blame for “Immigration Delay Disease” so named because those who are affected have so much trouble passing through border control and security checkpoints – where fingerprint identification is required.

Police and other government authorities as well as many corporations rely on fingerprints as absolute identity markers. Even the airports use them.

In fact, the condition was first discovered when a Swiss woman was asked to provide her fingerprints upon entry to the United States, and she informed authorities she could not comply. Nine of her family members are affected by the condition.