University of Edinburgh: Hebridean study to explore disease and genes link

The distinctive Hebridean gene pool could shed light on the causes of diseases such as stroke, diabetes, heart disease and cancer and, in time, potentially point to new treatments for the general population, researchers say.

The genetic make up of people from the islands – which previous research has shown to be different from the rest of Scotland – will allow researchers to investigate how variations in Hebridean DNA influence the health of locals.

The University of Edinburgh study – which is aiming to recruit 2,000 people – will not be limited to people living in the Inner or Outer Hebrides, but will also include people with Hebridean grandparents who live anywhere in the world.

Genetic analysis
Participants will be asked to complete an online questionnaire about their health and lifestyle and to return a saliva sample by post, which researchers will use for genetic analysis.

Volunteers who live in the UK can choose to receive specific genetic information from their saliva sample. This information, provided in collaboration with the NHS, could help prevent future disease.

The MRC-funded research builds on the work of the Viking Genes study, which has recruited over 8,000 volunteers with Orkney or Shetland ancestry.

Professor Jim Wilson, lead researcher and Chair of Human Genetics, University of Edinburgh, said:

Expanding the Viking Genes study will allow us to explore the unique genetic heritage of the Inner and Outer Hebrides. We will explore how the distinct gene pools influence the risk of disease today and investigate the Norse, Scottish and Irish components of ancestry in the different Hebridean isles.

Professor Jim Wilson
Lead researcher and Chair of Human Genetics, University of Edinburgh
The study also involves the University of Aberdeen and NHS Grampian Clinical Genetics doctors Professor Zosia Miedzybrodzka and Dr John Dean.

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