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Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2009 Jun;20(4):510-3. doi: 10.1016/j.semcdb.2008.11.003. Epub 2008 Nov 13.

Scalp hair-whorl orientation of Japanese individuals is random; hence, the trait's distribution is not genetically determined.

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Gene Regulation and Chromosome Biology Laboratory, Center for Cancer Research, National Cancer Institute at Frederick, Ft. Detrick, Frederick, MD 21702-1201, USA.


Because the features of clockwise versus anti-clockwise orientation of hair-whorl coiling developed on a person's scalp is (partially, albeit significantly) correlated with that individual's right- versus left-hand-use preference (i.e., handedness) in the US and British subjects, these traits have been recently suggested to be determined biologically and through a common genetic mechanism. Here I report results of a serendipitously made observation with the Japanese population that helps to scrutinize validity of partial correlation between these attributes and to ascertain whether the underlying gene's frequency variations exist in different gene pools. Surprisingly, the whorl orientation in the Japanese individuals was found to be random, although their handedness variation is similar to that of the US population. Therefore, the whorl orientation trait is not genetically determined in the Japanese population. This result supports the idea that separate decisions must be made during embryogenesis for developing handedness and hair-whorl features at least in Japanese individuals. A recent study found the lack of association between whorl orientation and handedness in the German population, yet previous studies suggested that their scalp hair orientation is genetically determined. Therefore, pronounced genetic variation for the hair-whorl trait exists between individuals of different geographical regions. As hand preference exhibits "complex correlation" with brain hemispheric functional specialization, implications of these findings are discussed here with the goal to define biology of brain hemispheric laterality determination.

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