In your alternate life as a thief, wouldn’t it be awfully convenient to rub your mitts all over the diamond case without having to glove up? Or much simpler to open any door, window or ventilation duct without having to pull your sleeves over your hands? Sure it would be – just go through life without fingerprints and the world of thievery may be at your…err…fingertips. Maybe not what MJ meant by a “smooth criminal,” but hey, whatever works.
This may in fact be a possibility, one day far in the future if we ever figure out how to get gene therapy to work. For now though, this remains a rare genetic condition, found in only four families in the world, known as “adermatoglyphia.” In a study published recently in the American Journal of Human Genetics, Dr. Eli Scherer and colleagues figured out the gene responsible for this condition.
I’m sure you’ve heard at least a piece here and there about the advance of personal genomics. Get the sequence of you genome, figure out what diseases you might be hiding. Yada yada. We’ll get into that some other time. With all that out there, you might guess we could tell you from your DNA what your hair color is. In fact, it is not.
Predicting any complex trait is far from easy – so take an extra beat if you ever think of getting your own genes sequenced to see if you’re at risk for, say, heart disease. There’s a relatively low number of traits and diseases that are decided by one gene. Many diseases are affected by a number of factors, just as do qualitative traits such as height and weight. Being able to predict these outputs would obviously be highly beneficial to medicine when talking about disease, but another field would benefit just as much – forensics. In a paper published online Jan.4.2011 in Human Genetics, a team led by researchers at the Forensics Research Institute in Poland built a model allowing them to predict hair color from genetic material with high accuracy.