Finns similar DNA provides hints to major disease risks

August 2, 2019

The predisposition of certain individuals in Finland to diseases may be insightful to genetic research. A recent study conducted by Washington University School of Medicine, US, identified 26 potentially harmful DNA variations in about 20,000 Finnish participants – such variations might alter a person’s lifetime risk of developing obesity, diabetes or high cholesterol levels, whether or not they are Finnish themselves.

Genetic similarities are commonly seen within a population after a significant event in history, especially following a substantial drop due to war or disease. The effect in isolated Finland has thus produced a set of genetic diseases known as the Finnish Disease Heritage –more common in the country than the rest of Europe;and caused by mutations in a single gene, often severely impacting health.

According to the researchers, the unique and relatively genetically similar Finnish people provided a comprehensive examination of the impact of coding variation -DNA changes that impact protein structure/function- on measures of cardiovascular and metabolic health than the global populace. Some of the more intriguing DNA variants identified are associated with changes in cholesterol levels, differences in levels of amino acids in the blood. Depending on the specific amino acids, it can suggest a number of health problems, including liver or kidney dysfunction and changes in height and body weight.

Adam Locke, an assistant professor of medicine at the university, said, “Little variation to the Finnish gene pool has expanded important genetic variants that influence overall health and disease risk from the founding population –so, we can easily delve into the Finnish health-care system to understand how these genetic variants affect their host’s.”

The conditions of the Finnish Disease Heritage are expected to form the basis of a genetic-health study of similarly isolated populations in different parts of the world, such as communities in the Islands of Sardinia in Italy or the Samoan Islands in the South Pacific.


Category: Features, Health alert

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