The Orkney Complex Disease Study (ORCADES) is a genetic epidemiology study based in an isolated population in the north of Scotland. It aims to discover the genes and variants in them which influence the risk of common, complex diseases such as diabetes, osteoporosis, stroke, heart disease, myopia, glaucoma, chronic kidney and lung disease. Finding these genes is the first step on the road to developing new ways of diagnosing and treating these diseases.
ORCADES is led by Dr Jim Wilson at the University of Edinburgh, together with Profs Harry Campbell (University of Ediburgh) and Alan Wright (MRC Human Genetics Unit) and Dr Sarah Wild (University of Edinburgh). After six years of collecting data, we finished recruitment of 2080 subjects in March 2011. Each participant attended a venepuncture clinic to give a fasting blood sample and a cardiovascular measurement clinic as part of the ORCADES Cardiovascular Study. The majority have also attended further clinics as part of the ORCADES Bone and Eye Studies (in collaboration with Prof Stuart Ralston and Dr Brian Fleck, respectively), having DEXA scans, cognitive function testing and eye measurements. ORCADES measurements were performed in a mobile clinic (a converted lorry) on four of the North Isles of Orkney before we renovated premises in Kirkwall as a research centre. The success of the study is in no small part due to the fact that the people of Orkney have been extremely good at volunteering to participate. Subjects must have at least two Orcadian grandparents in order to participate. Studies in isolated populations have a number of advantages for identifying genes, including the ability to use information on the inheritance of variants through a family. ORCADES is now a platform resource for health research in Scotland.