Aberdeen farms old Scots for genetics study

Scotland’s University of Aberdeen is busy farming ancient Aberdonians for the latest phase in a genetic study, it has announced. In total, the study aims to sign up 50,000 Scots born in the fifties to have their health tracked. 

The idea is that stuff like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, mental illness and strokes aren’t just a result of being born in The Icy North, rather they run in families. So Aberdeen University is helping out on building up a database for the Scottish Family Health Study (SFHS), part of the Generation Scotland genetics research partnership between the NHS and genetics boffins.

Medical Research Council lackeys surveyed all primary school children aged seven to 12 in Aberdeen back in 1962. Now, those originally surveyed are being sent letters with the hope of providing insight into a range of health conditions and how they may or may not be passed down through generations. Officially, the SFHS will be creating a Scottish “biobank” which will be full of genetic, medical, family history and lifestyle information to help researchers investigate genetic and environmental factors to common diseases.

Blair Smith, professor of primary care medicine at the University of Aberdeen, reckons that the SFHS is a “tremendously important study”. He said: “We know that many diseases such as cancer, heart disease, mental illness and diabetes run in families and that tells us that genes are important. But we don’t know yet which genes are important or how they relate to other things such as lifestyle. 

“We can get more information about genes by studying DNA which carries the genetic blueprint handed down through the generations. That is why we are collecting and analysing blood samples and health information from thousands of families across Scotland. All the data gathered will help future research into the prevention, treatment and diagnosis of many illnesses.”

Recruitment for the study began back in Glasgow and Tayside in 2006, an area not far off from where life expectancy is lower than in Iraq.  

Editor in Chief Mike Magee has just missed out on being elligible for the study, which is a shame as his complex egosystem of tobacco, whisky and his strict “No Neeps” policy would be sure to baffle boffins.