Page last updated at 13:30 GMT, Tuesday, 14 April 2009 14:30 UK

Extra volunteers for island study

Human DNA strand
Examining your DNA could tell which diseases you are likely to suffer from

An extra 1,000 volunteers are to take part in a study of life-threatening diseases.

Scientists in Edinburgh University have been awarded £450,000 to continue their study of genetics in Orkney.

The award will allow them to almost double the number of islanders taking part in the study.

The Orkney Cardiovascular Disease Study began five years ago and aims to pinpoint the genes linked to heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

It is hoped the research will lead to new treatments.

Researchers focused on Orkney because inhabitants' diet, lifestyle and occupations tend to be similar.

The lack of variation in these factors makes it easier to concentrate on identifying the impact of genetics on disease.

Orkney is a fantastic place to conduct research because people are so good at volunteering to take part in the study
Dr Jim Wilson
Edinburgh University

So far, just over 1,300 volunteers have been involved, and researchers have said the new funding will allow a further 1,000 to be recruited.

Participants have a number of measurements taken, such as weight, blood pressure and heart rhythm, and also have their blood sugar and cholesterol levels checked.

Ultrasound scans will determine whether participants arteries have hardened.

Researchers have so far found 51 genes that were not previously associated with disease.

One of the major breakthroughs has been the discovery of a gene that can cause gout.

Dr Jim Wilson, from Edinburgh University's public health sciences department, said: "Orkney is a fantastic place to conduct research because people are so good at volunteering to take part in the study.

"This extra money will allow us to search for rarer gene variants, which could be very important for reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes, not just in Orkney but across the UK."

The study is funded by the Chief Scientist Office. It also receives support from the Royal Society and the Medical Research Council.



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