Date Published: December 28, 2004
Publisher: Public Library of Science
Partial Text: The Icelandic population is now a part of a unique epidemiological study, which has involved investigating the genetic heritage of many of them. The reason that this experiment can be done is because of the remarkable records that exist in Iceland. Not only is there almost complete genealogical information dating back to the 18th century on all current (288,000) and many previous Icelanders (more than 600,000 in total), but in addition the country has an almost complete cancer registry dating from 1955. A company, deCODE Genetics, was set up to mine health-care data in Iceland, and to use it to assess the effect of genetics on health. Initially, the company attracted criticism, with some questioning the ethics of providing access to health-care data for many disease projects to a for-profit company. But the company has been supported by many Icelanders themselves, demonstrated by Icelanders donating blood samples with informed consent for research on multiple diseases, and now the project’s scientific value is becoming apparent.