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JOHN HOPKINS BAYVIEW HAS GOOD INFO ON THISDOCTOR.... Important Discoveries Clues at Our Fingertips By Christine Courpas When detectives dust for fingerprints, they gather clues to solve a crime. Similarly, when Marvin M. Schuster, M.D., fingerprints a patient, he hopes to detect a particular condition so that he can someday find its cure. In his most recent experiment, he uncovered a relationship between the shape of a person's fingerprint and chronic intestinal obstruction (CIP), a rare and painful chronicdigestive disorder.CIP causes excruciating abdominal pain, distention, vomiting, nausea, fatigue and severe constipation alternating with bouts of diarrhea. People with this condition cannot retain and digest food, and Consequently lose an unhealthy amount of weight and become susceptible to illness. Many rely on intravenous feedings and pain medication to survive. Dr. Schuster, director of the Division of Digestive Diseases at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, and his colleague, T.J. Pulliam, M.D., have released the findings of their seven-year fingerprint study in a paper published by The American Journal of Gastroenterelogy . They found that 54 percent of their sampling of people with CIP had a rare fingerprint pattern called a digital arch and other conditions generally attributed to this shape. This finding may be useful in identifying potential CIP victims and ultimately determining the genetic factors involved. Using fingerprints as signposts to various diseases or conditions is not totally new. Previously, researchers discovered links between certain fingerprint patterns and chromosomal abnormalities as well as medical and psychiatric disorders. Dr. Schuster, in an earlier study, discovered a correlation between people with a high frequency of digital arches and early onset constipation and abdominal pain. In the case of CIP, says Schuster, "the more digital arches there are in the fingerprint, the stronger the correlation (to the condition). The majority of CIP patients possess at least one digital arch. This discovery offers an important clue in diagnosing CIP, and it suggests that the disorder is congenital. It could potentially save people with CIP from multiple needless operations." These fascinating findings do not offer a cure for CIP, but they may aid in early diagnosis and, one day, point the way to a cause and cure. CIP affects 50,000 people (as many Americans as have AIDS) and emerges primarily in children and young adults. Its cause is unknown and its presence difficult to diagnose. Sometimes CIP comes out of nowhere and attacks otherwise healthy people with no warning. In other instances, it afflicts people as a consequence of cerebral palsy, lupus, paralysis, Parkinson's Disease or a virus. The symptoms of CIP mimic another ailment-- mechanical obstruction. Sometimes a patient will undergo several exploratory operations before the physician changes his or her diagnosis from mechanical obstruction to CIP. CIP is just one of several digestive diseases called motility disorders. The most common include irritable bowel syndrome (spastic colon), reflux esophagitis (indigestion), constipation, diarrhea and fecal incontinence. Like CIP, other rare conditions, such as gastroparesis (paralysis of the stomach) and intestinal dysmotility, cause excruciating pain and an inability to eat or digest food. Dr. Schuster leads a multidisciplinary team of medical professionals working to increase the pace and the volume of research essential to identifying treatments, causes and cures of digestive diseases. If you have concerns about symptoms of digestive disease, call (410) 550-0790. Last updated June 11, 1998 Copyright The Johns Hopkins University 1996-1999. All rights reserved. Printer-friendly f
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