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Last Updated: Friday, 8 August, 2003, 05:22 GMT 06:22 UK
Genetic research funding boost
Researchers will study how family history affects health and disease
A 1.8m award has been made in a bid to push Scotland's top medical schools to the forefront of global genetic research.

The cash boost, which will be shared among the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dundee and St Andrews, was made by the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council.

It will help medics investigate how family history affects health, disease and treatment.

The project, Genetic Health in the 21st Century, addresses Scotland's three health priority areas - cancer, heart disease and strokes and mental health.

Experts said these illnesses, as well as many others such as asthma and arthritis, tend to run in families, suggesting that genes play a role.

Early diagnosis

The researchers aim to identify the genes responsible for creating a risk of breast or colon cancer, diabetes or stroke, dementia or major depression.

The research could help diagnose early signs and symptoms of disease and select the best medicines and drug treatments, experts believe.

For the first time in history, we have the scientific knowledge to unravel the genetic risk factors responsible for common killers
Prof David Porteous

Professor David Porteous, of the University of Edinburgh, who is spearheading the project said: "This puts Scotland at the forefront of genetic research in the world.

"It not only brings together the medical and scientific experts in genetics, but places ethical, legal and social questions firmly at the heart of the research."

The cash will fund two long-term collaborative genetic projects in Scotland, Generation Scotland and Biobank.

Under the programme, schizophrenia and manic depression will be studied by the Universities of Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

'Common killers'

Meanwhile, the legal and ethical issues raised by the genetic research are to be explored by the University of Edinburgh's School of Law.

The University of Glasgow will study the risk of heart disease while the University of Aberdeen will look at bone disease.

And the Universities of Dundee and St Andrews will collaborate on research into the links between genetic health and the community.

Prof Porteous added: "For the first time in history, we have the scientific knowledge to unravel the genetic risk factors responsible for common killers.

"This research infrastructure allows a co-ordinated approach across Scotland to ensure that people receive early warnings of the onset of disease."

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