Rare History, Common Disease

A unique population in Quebec is helping reveal the genetics behind common diseases such as heart disease and asthma. But as it loses its isolation, is time running out?

By David Secko

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1 The novel loci include regions that contain novel candidate Crohn disease genes such as JAKMIP1, which is involved in interleukin-23 signaling, and LOC285484, which is similar to a secreted cytokine potentially involved in intestinal inflammation.

Raelson says the Quebec population is ideal for genetic research. Here, 2,600 individuals migrated from France between 1608 and 1760, then experienced a genetic bottleneck, creating a population with less "genetic noise" or variation. This homogeneity makes it easier to spot disease-causing mutations (see Figure). "Founder populations can help in identifying smaller [genetic] effects with more power," says Ariel Darvasi of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who works with the Ashkenazi Jewish population.

Raelson says that...

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