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Forensic Science Zone

Question: can you change your finger prints in any way?

Asked by claraoldfield to Richard on 13 Jun 2011.

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  • Photo: Richard CaseRichard Case answered on 13 Jun 2011:

    Good question claraoldfield,

    The answer you are taught to say is that “your fingerprints are formed before you were born and stay the same throughout your life until after you die and decomposition sets in”… This isn’t strictly true… and heres why:

    * Your fingerprints will change in size as you grow
    * Your fingerprints can appear more rough or smooth depending on your job
    * Your fingerprints can become scarred if you cut them

    The amazing thing is that damaged skin can reproduce cells to form the fingerprints exactly as they were before they were damaged…. unless the cut has damaged the inner layer of skin (known as the dermis)… then you get a permanent scar… but as the scar is permanent, it can be used to identify you.

    Some people have gone to extraordinairy lengths to avoid identification:

    ACID – They have put their fingers in acid. This is a temporary measure, as the skin will repair itself.
    SKIN GRAFTS – One person had skin from their chest removed and placed over the tips of the fingers… this worked, but its not only your fingerprints that can identify you… its the skin that covers the whole of your hands and feet, so he was still identifiable.

    Finally, there was a recent BBC documentary that followed the story of a hand transplant…. I cannot see anyone going to such long lengths to get theirs hands replaced by someone elses…. but as its possible, I have to mention it :)

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