More than three quarters of folk taking part in a “Viking genes” study want to know how Northern Isles populations differ genetically from other parts of the country.
A survey of 1,400 Shetland and Orkney research volunteers found that “understanding the genetic distinction” between the Northern Isles and other populations was a top priority for 77 per cent – the highest of any option.
The survey results will be used to help researchers at the University of Edinburgh determine where to focus their investigations.
Launched in 2020, the survey aims to look into the genetics and health of volunteers with at least two grandparents from Orkney or Shetland.
Participants are asked to complete a detailed questionnaire on their health, lifestyle and environment as well as providing a saliva sample for DNA.
It is hoped the study will lead to better understanding of the causes of illnesses such as heart disease, strokes diabetes and others.
As part of the study, volunteers were also surveyed about what they wanted the research to achieve.
As well as a strong interest in finding out how Northern Isles populations differ genetically, the volunteers also gave feedback on what health conditions they felt should be the focus of further research.
Jim Wilson, professor of human genetics at the university’s centre for global health research, who is leading the study, said the survey yielded some “interesting findings”.
More than half of the volunteers (54 per cent) felt research should focus on Alzheimer’s or dementia, closely followed by heart disease (53 per cent)
Stroke was the third most important condition at 29 per cent.
Just three per cent of volunteers were interested in more research about Covid-19.
Prof Wilson said the team was still working through the “fantastic response” and he hoped to provide more updates in the future..
Meanwhile, the survey is still seeking 200 more volunteers.
Anyone interested can visit ed.ac.uk/viking to sign up.