[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]
You may have heard of genetic research being done in Iceland. It’s a rich venue, because Icelanders have a limited gene pool and highly detailed genealogical records. Well, it looks like we have our own version of Icelanders here in the U.S. They’re called the Hutterites, and they live in rural South Dakota. Researchers from the University of Chicago and Northwestern have been studying the Hutterites for decades. Almost 1,300 members of the community emigrated from Germany to South Dakota in 1874. Today they number in the tens of thousands. They live similar communal farming lifestyles, so they experience common environmental influences.
Researchers provide medical care and batteries of expensive tests in return for the opportunity to study community members. They have a database of information on 13,000 people. The most recent published study on the group appeared in The New England Journal of Medicine. A protein had previously been linked to asthma. And scientists studied data from Hutterites to find a variation in the gene that encodes the protein. That’s just one of the ways in which researchers are trying to learn more about the genes of the Hutterites, and apply the results to the general population.