Gene Pool Expeditions

A good gene pool, like love, is where you find it. Now genomics researchers have two new ones to swoon over: one from Estonia, a crossroads of Scandinavian cultures and the northernmost of the former Soviet Union's Baltic republics; and from Tonga, an island kingdom half a world away where a Polynesian people has lived in near-perfect isolation for close to 3,500 years. Tonga and Estonia laid final plans last November and December, respectively, for national gene pool exploration programs aimed

Tom Hollon
Feb 18, 2001

A good gene pool, like love, is where you find it. Now genomics researchers have two new ones to swoon over: one from Estonia, a crossroads of Scandinavian cultures and the northernmost of the former Soviet Union's Baltic republics; and from Tonga, an island kingdom half a world away where a Polynesian people has lived in near-perfect isolation for close to 3,500 years. Tonga and Estonia laid final plans last November and December, respectively, for national gene pool exploration programs aimed at discovering disease-associated genes and developing therapies based on the discoveries.

They follow the trail blazed by Iceland,1 where for several years the gene pool of 275,000 Icelanders has been the fishing preserve of Reykjavik-based deCODE Genetics which is hunting for gene variants that affect serious, often chronic diseases by finding statistical links between Icelanders' genotypes and their inherited illnesses. The Tongan project will be a commercial affair...

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