Ten villages in southern Italy are to become part of a 'genetic park', a DNA collection project that will allow scientists to search for genes involved in Alzheimer's disease, asthma, cancer and heart disease. Researchers chose the area of Cilento, south of Naples, because its inhabitants have been relatively isolated for thousands of years - some villagers still use the ancient Greek and Albanian languages spoken by their ancestors.
Graziella Persico, head of the team, told the Guardian newspaper that by comparing genetically similar people, it would be much easier to spot 'rogue' genes. Domenico Nicoletti, director of the park, sees the project as the only realistic way to revive the villages. When the scientists approached him about collecting DNA samples from the inhabitants, he persuaded them to include plans for developing tourism in the area. The project is currently being funded solely by Italy's national research council, but private backers are being sought.
Meanwhile, the Wellcome Trust and the Medical Research Council have published the results of a public consultation on the UK Population Biomedical Collection. The proposed database would include DNA samples and medical data from around 500,000 volunteers. The findings of the survey, available on the Wellcome Trust's website, indicate that most of those questioned regarded the project's aims as 'admirable'. The majority would also be willing to donate samples, provided informed consent and anonymity were guaranteed.