Posted by: Merlin PJ14 OCT 2009
Merlin, ever the scientist, has always been rather sceptical, if not downright scornful, of the many different methods of supposedly divining the future.
However, a recent trawl through Merlin’s archives revealed an interesting paper from the BMJ in 1993 which looked at the relation of fingerprints and the shape of the palm of the hand to both fetal growth and blood pressure in adult life.
The patterns formed by the dermal ridges of the fingers and the palm of the hand are formed during early gestation and are determined for life by about the 19th week of gestation.
The ridges of what will become the fingerprint are related to the shape of the finger. Swollen finger pads produce a whorl pattern of ridges, while flat pads give rise to an arch or loop.
The research was carried out by a team based at the Medical Research Council environmental epidemiology unit in Southampton, led by Keith Godfrey, an MRC training fellow, and including a senior fingerprint expert at Scotland Yard.
The authors reported that unusually complete data had been maintained on all babies delivered in the labour ward of the Sharoe Green Hospital in Preston from 1934 onwards. Using these records, they traced a group of people born at that hospital between 1935 and 1943.
A researcher visited a subgroup of the patients at home, carried out a health questionnaire, measured their blood pressure and took their fingerprints and palm prints. Counts of loops, whorls and arches were made, and measurements made of the palmar angle (the angle between certain lines on the palm).
When matched up with the subjects’ birth records, the finger and palm print records showed that the presence of fingertip whorls and a narrow palmar angle were markers of impaired fetal development at different stages of the pregnancy. Fingertip whorls reflected impaired growth during early gestation, and both whorls and a narrow palmar angle were associated with hypertension in later life.
The authors concluded that they had adduced further evidence that raised adult blood pressure originates in utero.
Merlin wondered if, when pharmacists carry out medicines use reviews, they should be reading the patient’s palm as well as checking their medication records.