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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 October, 2004, 10:09 GMT 11:09 UK
Orkney to help battle for health
Heart attack victim
Heart disease is one of Scotland's top-three killers
A new two-year study is being launched on Orkney to tackle Scotland's top three life-threatening diseases - heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

The University of Edinburgh study will recruit 1,000 adults from the northern isles of Orkney.

The islands' population makes them perfect for the Medical Research Council Human Genetics Unit to study.

Volunteers will undergo a variety of tests to try and figure out the risk factors involved in the three diseases.

Lead investigator Dr Jim Wilson, of the university's Public Health Sciences department, said the study would look at environment and genes.

He said: "The Orkney Cardiovascular Disease Study (ORCADES) will increase our understanding of the relative roles of inheritance and the environment in causing these diseases, and will include a search for any genes that predispose strongly to illness.

Health benefits

"The volunteers taking part in the project will have the benefit of a health check and will also be contributing to improving the health of the community in Orkney, and in Scotland as a whole, through medical research."

Participants will have their height, weight and blood pressure measured and have ultrasound tests to measure hardening of the arteries.

Their blood sugar and cholesterol levels will also be assessed alongside a number of other risk factors.

Dr Jim Wilson
If we find a new gene we're hoping it could lead to new treatments
Dr Wilson
University of Edinburgh
Each person will also complete a questionnaire covering their family medical history, dietary habits, physical activity and health habits - including whether they smoke or not.

The study is funded primarily by the Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Executive and receives support from The Royal Society and the MRC Human Genetics Unit.

Dr Wilson said Orkney had been chosen for two reasons.

He explained: "The first is that everyone living there is similar in terms of their diet, occupation and other lifestyle factors.

Family trees

"As cardiovascular disease is due to both genes and the environment - and the environment is similar - then it's easier for us to pick out which genes are having an effect.

"The second reason is the stability of the population through the generations, which allows us to trace family trees and gives us more power to identify these genes."

Dr Wilson said he was confident the study would benefit the people of Orkney to help better understand killer diseases.

He added: "If we find a new gene it's going to be a good target for new interventions and we're hoping it could lead to new treatments."

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