Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

Now in our 8th year of bringing you beautiful imagery from biomedical science every day

Fascinating Fingerprints
29 July 2013

Fascinating Fingerprints

Our fingerprints are unique, and not even identical twins share the same prints. They’ve been used by people making their mark for thousands of years – as well as their more recent use in crime fighting and identification – and appear while we’re still in the womb. Yet very little is known about how our fingerprints form. The skin on our fingertips is made of two main layers – the epidermis on top, and the dermis beneath. Researchers currently think that as a foetus develops, the epidermis grows faster than the dermis. This makes it fold and buckle, forming a ridged pattern shaped by swirling forces inside the womb. There’s one genetic clue too. People with a faulty version of a gene called SMARCAD1 have no fingerprints, making life difficult for them at border crossings. But exactly how the gene is involved in shaping fingerprints remains a scientific mystery.

Written by Kat Arney

Search The Archive

Submit An Image

What is BPoD?

BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

Read More

BPoD is also available in Catalan at with translations by the University of Valencia.