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Palm Reading Scientists

In fairy tales and other stories, people curious about their fate could consult a palm reader who, as the story goes, would tell their fortune by looking at the lines on their palm.

A Palm's Story

While there's no scientific evidence linking the lines on your palm to your fate or fortune, scientists have learned that your palm and finger prints do have a story to tell. On this Moment of Science we'll learn about dermatoglyphics, that is, the medical study of palms and fingerprints.

The ridges on your hands, fingers, feet, and toes formed while you were still in the womb, five or six months before you were born. They are the result of stress patterns that formed as your hands and feet developed.

Because the growth pattern of every fetus is slightly different, your finger and palm prints are absolutely unique. Even identical twins have slightly different patterns.

Irregular Prints And Disease

Differences in fingerprints have always been useful to police detectives, but what can a doctor tell from looking at your prints? Actually, quite a bit.

Many genetic diseases affect the way that the fetus develops. This results in characteristic irregularities in the palm prints. Scientists have statistically linked dozens of genetic diseases to unusual palm prints. Sometimes even viral diseases can leave telltale traces on an infant's palm

Birth Defects, German Measles, And Schizophrenia

For example, women who caught German measles early in pregnancy during the 1960's sometimes passed birth defects along to their children. A study in 1966 found that such children had characteristic palms and fingerprints as well.

Studies have linked irregular palm prints to such diseases as schizophrenia, fetal alcohol syndrome, and even allergies. While they can't tell you how long you'll live or how many children you'll have, the lines on your palm can tell you something.

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