An effort to identify gene variations in Irish people may hold the key to discovering who is more likely to get diseases such as cancer and diabetes experts say.

The Genealogical Society of Ireland and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland have launched an important All-Ireland project to create a collection of DNA samples from individuals of Irish origin, which will be used to explore human genetic variation in the Irish population.

They are calling it an Irish DNA Atlas.

Over the past decade or so genealogists from around the world have become increasingly intrigued by the possibilities of gene-based research. This new project is aimed at promoting an awareness, appreciation and knowledge of genetic genealogy.

Operationally the project has two strands, genealogy and genetics.


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The first is to further knowledge of the population history of Ireland and its connections with other populations in Europe and second to help understand how genes influence health in Ireland.

This will be done through the creation of a resource for use as ‘healthy’ controls in researching how genes influence common diseases in Ireland, including diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

The organizers believe the collection and scientific analysis of this type of data may make it possible to identify genetic risk factors for disease and with this information, improve the nature of future treatments, including drug design or indeed lifestyle decisions on how to prevent the development of disease in the first place.

As the Royal College of Surgeons is one of Ireland’s foremost health research institutions, this project will have both a national and an international dimension involving researchers in a number of different fields.

This joint project will compile an ‘Irish DNA Atlas’ through the collection of genealogical information and DNA samples to investigate the diversity of the Irish genome, which is a valuable, yet largely unexplored, resource of the Irish nation.