February 05, 2018 lil teryan 0 Comments

Did you know that just as the grooves on human fingertips, the grooves on human lips are also formed during the embryonic stage? They are also unique and do not change during the lifespan of a person. However, while lip prints can’t be used in forensics to catch the criminals, they truly can reveal a lot about a person’s health, especially their genetic predisposition to cleft lip or palate, which are some of the most common birth defects.

Scientists have been looking for clues to genetic traits by analyzing subtle patterns in lips. More precisely, at University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Craniofacial and Dental Genetics, geneticist Katherine Neiswanger and director Mary Marazita have been studying the genetic underpinnings of cleft lip and cleft palate for more than two decades. Recently, they’ve decided to devote themselves to studying facial features, including lip patterns, in order to determine whether certain physical traits might be connected in some way.

According to Neiswanger, there is no single classification system, but lip prints usually fall into a few categories: straight vertical lines, “branches” that spread across the lips like tree roots, circular whorls or crosshatches. It appears, whorls, especially if they are present on the lower lip, are connected with a likelihood of carrying genes of clefts and other orofacial disorders, which are often stigmatizing and complicate the breastfeeding process for babies. For instance, a repaired cleft lip shows a whorled pattern, while a non-cleft lip reveals a vertical line pattern.

Nevertheless, the area of studying lip patterns is still new, and a firm connection with orofacial disorders has yet to be established. But, as technology develops in the future, this research could one day lead to early diagnosis in utero. Marazita and Neiswanger believe that, apart from lip prints, other traits among which the shape of a face or even speech characteristics could show an underlying genetic vulnerability to certain disorders. As Neiswanger says: “The picture is just starting to come together, and it’s very exciting.”

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