UK scientists are launching a two-year project that aims to unpick the genetic and environmental factors involved in heart disease, stroke and diabetes, by studying people from the Scottish islands of Orkney. The study, based at the University of Edinburgh, will recruit 1000 adults living in Orkney. The participants will undergo a series of health tests, and fill out lifestyle questionnaires, as well as contributing a DNA sample.
Scientists hoping to understand the influence of genetic and non-genetic factors on common diseases have undertaken several large-scale projects in recent years. As well as similar medical databases in Iceland and Estonia, the UK BioBank study will study the effects of genes and environments on the health of half a million middle-aged Britons. But smaller studies, based on families and isolated populations, will also be invaluable in the search for disease genes. The Orkney Cardiovascular Disease Study (ORCADES) will be funded mainly by the Chief Scientist of the Scottish Executive, as well as the Royal Society and the Medical Research Human Genetics Unit in Edinburgh.
Study leader Jim Wilson, of the university's Public Health Sciences department, told BBC News Online that Orkney was chosen for two reasons: 'The first is that everyone living there is similar in terms of their diet, occupation and other lifestyle factors', he said, adding 'the second is the stability of the population through the generations, which allows us to trace family trees and gives us more power to trace these genes'. People taking part in the study will have their height, weight and blood pressure measured, and will also have their blood sugar and cholesterol levels assessed. 'The volunteers taking part in the project will have the benefit of a health check and will also be contributing to the health of the community in Orkney, and Scotland as a whole, through medical research', said Wilson.