Up to 2,000 people from the remote Isles of Orkney, Scotland are to be recruited onto a major new study, which aims to identify the genes that cause the common bone-thinning condition, osteoporosis.
Families from the islands of Westray, Sanday, Stronsay and Shapinsay, as well as those from the west of the Mainland of Orkney are expected to volunteer for the 240,000 study being funded over three years by medical research charity the Arthritis Research Campaign (arc).
The investigation will be carried out by a team of researchers from the University of Edinburgh led by Professor of Rheumatology Stuart Ralston, and Royal Society Research Fellow, Dr Jim Wilson, who comes from Orkney.
Previous research has shown that people with a family history of osteoporosis are at increased risk of suffering from the condition themselves. This appears to be due to the inheritance of genes that predispose them to reduced bone mineral density.
The people of Orkney have been specifically selected by the Edinburgh team because the population is both isolated and stable, and specific genes will be easier to track down and identify.
"Although some genes that predispose people to osteoporosis have been identified, most remain to be discovered," explained Professor Ralston, who is based at the Rheumatic Diseases Unit in the university's Molecular Medicine Centre at the Western General Hospital. "With this project we will carry out genetic mapping studies in several large families from an isolated population in Orkney to try and discover the location and identify the genes that influence bone density and predispose to this common condition. We know that genetic factors make about an 80 per cent contribution to people developing low bone density, but we only know about five per cent of them."
"You couldn't do this sort of study in a large city like Edinburgh because there are people from all over the world and therefore too many g
Contact: Linda Menzies
University of Edinburgh