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article imageIcelandic population genetically mapped

By Tim Sandle     Apr 5, 2015 in Science
Reykjav - Scientists have performed whole-genome sequencing on roughly 1 percent of the Icelandic population. This is one of the largest studies ever performed of a distinct nation.
Whole-genome data from more than 2,600 Icelanders has been collected, analyzed and compiled. Iceland has a population of 329,100 and an area of 103,000 square kilometers (40,000 square miles), making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe.
The analysis offers unprecedented insight into the diversity of humans, according to BioIT World. A team led by Decode Genetics’s Kári Steffánsson has found a number of things of interest. The researchers identified genes related to Alzheimer’s and other diseases. They also dated the last common father to around 239,000 years ago. Furthermore, they found the prevalence of having a loss-of-function gene to be near 8 percent of the population.
The scale and success of the study has impressed the scientific community. Commenting on the research, Daniel MacArthur of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston and the Broad Institute told the website Science the studies were “an amazing piece of work” that “was impossible five years ago.”
In addition, MIT Technology Review notes, the research group Decode now has enough genetic data on Icelandic men and women to extrapolate the presence of a harmful mutation in others who have not contributed their genomes for research.
However, the collection and use of this level of information poses ethical issues. In the same MIT feature, anthropologist Gísli Pálsson at the University of Iceland told Tech Review writes: "Do you have the right to fiddle with people’s lives on a massive scale?" Citing an example, she goes on to say: "You can tell your neighbor, ‘You are smoking too much.’ But it’s another thing to approach 1,000 people and say, ‘You have [a] mutation."
The findings have been published a series of papers in the journal Nature Genetics. The lead article is headed "Large-scale whole-genome sequencing of the Icelandic population."
More about Iceland, Genes, genetic map, Dna, Genetic mapping
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