Population amd Disease Genetics Group Centre for Population Health Sciences
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Prince William has Indian heritage

The matrilineal genealogy of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge traces back to an Eliza Kewark, who was apparently housekeeper to his 5th great grandfather Theodore Forbes in Surat, Gujarat, India. Eliza was part of the Armenian community in Surat, but analysis of two matrilineal descendants has shown that she carried the R30b1 mtDNA haplogroup. In analysis of over 65,000 samples from around the world this has only been seen in South Asia and shows that Eliza's motherline was Indian.Genome-wide analysis of her descendants corroborated this, as each had three blocks of inferred South Asian ancestry across their genomes, totalling 0.3%-1% South Asian.

Meet the Izzards

Meet the Izzards is a two part BBC1 documentary tracing Eddie Izzard's - and our - ancestors across the globe, all the way back to their origins in Africa. Dr Jim Wilson charts Eddie's immense journey. While Eddie clearly has many ancestors, if we want to trace a family line back through the generations, there are two ancestral lineages that we can learn much more about than the others, that of the father's father's father and the mother's mother's mother and so on back in time. The fatherline is traced using the Y chromosome, a block of DNA a bit like a surname or family crest that is handed down from father to son, and the motherline is tracked using a piece of DNA which is passed fom a mother to her children, and it is known as mtDNA. Eddie traces his motherline in the first episode and his fatherline in the second.

Launch of Viking Health Study-Shetland

People in Shetland are to be at the forefront of efforts to understand the cause of life-threatening diseases, including heart disease and diabetes. Dr Jim Wilson will lead a new study which will recruit 2000 volunteers to help understand how genes affect our health. Researchers will use the latest genetic analysis techniques to find the gene variants that increase the risk of developing illnesses such as glaucoma and lung disease. The study is funded by the Medical Research Council. Viking Health Study-Shetland

Orkney has the highest rate of Multiple Sclerosis in the world

The first scientific study of the number of people in Orkney and Shetland with MS for over 30 years has revealed that Orkney has the highest rate in the world. The number has increased significantly since the 1970s at 402 per 100,000, up from 309 per 100,000 in 1974.This compares to 295 per 100,000 in Shetland and 229 per 100,000 in Aberdeen. The increase probably reflects improved diagnostic methods, improved survival or rising incidence.

First results of ScotlandsDNA project

The results for the first five hundred people are in and reveal the Scots to be much more diverse than was thought. A number of interesting groups were found - 1% of the men carry a lineage originating in North Africa, where it is common among Berber and Tuareg tribesmen. Another 1% have a recent origin in Iberia, their ancestors having probably reached Britain via the trade in tin. The Duke of Buccleuch, a direct descendant of Charles II also took part and allowed us to define the Royal Stewart Y chromosome, which is a subtype of the ultimate Celtic group, S145.

Liking a lie-in, in people's genes

By studying sleep patterns in subjects from ORCADES and seven other studies across Europe we have discovered that a variant in the ABCC9 gene which influences how long people sleep at night. About one fifth of Europeans carry this variant, and sleep for nearly 30 mins longer on average each night than their compatriots without the variant. When the same gene was turned off in fruit flies they slept for 3 h less per night than normal! ABCC9 is a potassium channel which is involved in sensing energy metabolism in the cells of the body. It thus opens up a whole new area of sleep biology which will help to understand how sleep is related to health problems such as heart disease and type-2-diabetes.

ScotlandsDNA launched!

Dr Jim Wilson and Alistair Moffat have launched a new national project to discover the origins of the Scots using their DNA. Inside us all lies a hidden history, the story of the immense journey our forebears made to reach these shores. Because we inherit our DNA from our parents, and they inherited there’s from their parents, DNA forms an archive of our past. We can now begin to read this archive and learn where our ancestors came from. Join this exciting project – from a simple saliva sample we can trace your ancestry over many thousands of years and answer a fundamental question – where do we come from?

Royal Society of Edinburgh Young Academy of Scotland

The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), Scotland's National Academy, has launched the "RSE Young Academy of Scotland", which is the first of its kind in Scotland. A rigorous selection procedure resulted in 68 young academics, entrepreneurs and professionals - including Dr Jim Wilson - being chosen to be the first members. The Young Academy will be launched at a ceremony in Edinburgh in November.

Dr Jim Wilson, said "I am looking forward to actively participating in the RSE Young Academy of Scotland. The Young Academy will encourage networking across traditional disciplines, help to form opinions and engage the public in Scotland and beyond with science and academia."

Gene study sheds new light on the origins of British men

New genetic evidence reveals that most British men are not descended from immigrant farmers who migrated east 5,000-10,000 years ago - contrary to previous research. Instead it appears that most European men can trace their lineage to people - most likely hunter-gatherers - who had settled in Europe long before that time.The latest study, based on the most common genetic lineage in European males, R-M269, carried by about three-quarters of British men. A key question in understanding the peopling of Europe is when this group spread out across the continent. The work shows that the set of genetic markers chosen to estimate the age of this group varies the outcome enormously. The previously reported east-west pattern is not found in their larger and more comprehensive dataset, leaving little evidence for a farmer-led dispersal of this major group.

The Blood of the Travellers

The origin of Ireland's Travelling people is a subject that has been debated for many years. Some say they are related to Romany gypsies or some other ethnic group that arrived in Ireland over the past 1000 years, others say they have been a community in Ireland long before the arrival of the Celts and subsequent invaders, while more say they are 'settled Irish people' who 'took to the road' during times of famine and eviction in the years since Oliver Cromwell.
Now for the first time this subject has been approached using the tools of DNA technology. Over the past year Olympian Francie Barrett has collected 40 Traveller DNA samples from every corner of Ireland. This DNA has been analysed by a team of scientists from The Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, The University of Edinburgh and Ethnoancestory.com to unlock the history of Ireland's Travelling people.

The Scots: A Genetic Journey

History has always mattered to Scots, and rarely more so than now at the outset of a new century, with a new census appearing in 2011 and after more than ten years of a new parliament. An almost limitless archive of our history lies hidden inside our bodies and we carry the ancient story of Scotland around with us. The mushrooming of genetic studies, of DNA analysis, is rewriting our history in spectacular fashion. In Scotland: A Genetic Journey, Alistair Moffat and Jim Wilson explore the history that is printed in our genes, and in a remarkable new approach, uncover the detail of where we are from, who we are and in so doing colour vividly a DNA map of Scotland.

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New Vitamin D Study

Evidence is growing that vitamin D might be important in various diseases, including Multiple Sclerosis. When our skin is exposed to sunlight, the ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation in the sunlight triggers vitamin D production in our bodies. The further from the equator we live, the weaker the UVB, so the less vitamin D we can make. In Scotland, there is not enough UVB to make any vitamin D at all in the winter. Even in summertime, our cloudy skies block much of the UVB from reaching us. We have been awarded a grant to measure vitamin D levels in the blood samples donated by ORCADES and NIMS participants, to gauge the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency in these extreme northerly locations.

Heartbeat genes

ORCADES took part in two genetic studies which looked at the rhythm of the heart, using data from heart monitors (electrocardiogram or ECG). These measure the electrical activity of the heart, which controls the heartbeat. The first study looked at pulse rate or how quickly the heart beats. The second looked at the length of the electrical signal causing the ventricles (pumping chambers) of the heart to contract. Variation in both measures is associated with an increased risk of sudden death and heart failure. The study of pulse rate found 6 new genes. The ventricles study found 22 new genetic variants. Some of these are in pathways which previously weren’t known to control the electrical activity of the heart. These may be future targets for new drugs to control irregular heartbeat.

A bumper crop of cholesterol genes

Cholesterol and other fats (or lipids) in the blood are a major risk factor for coronary artery disease. If cholesterol can be lowered it saves lives by averting heart attacks. A study by the Global Lipid Genetics Group, to which ORCADES belongs, has recently discovered an impressive 59 new genetic variants influencing cholesterol. By investigating the genetic variants that naturally lower cholesterol levels, we can learn exactly how they work and then develop new drugs that mimic their effects. Genetics thus provides a clever way of understanding complex biology and using this to develop new and more effective drug treatments. 

Twelve new genes for diabetes

ORCADES belongs to DIAGRAM, a group investigating the genetics of type-2-diabetes. A recent DIAGRAM study involving 40,000 diabetics and 100,000 controls has identified 12 new genetic variants which increase the risk of diabetes. This brings the total so far known to 38, with each new discovery potentially opening up new lines of research into diabetes prevention and treatment.  It turns out that many of these new variants are in the same genes as others known to increase the risk of entirely different diseases, including some cancers, coronary heart disease and high cholesterol, implying that different ways of regulating these genes can lead to different diseases.


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