Who is a Faroe Islander?

When having lived in a remote archipelago for centuries, where people often marry within families or in the same small village, the population of the Faroe Islands has remained very homogenous genetically throughout the years. Of course today, Faroe Islanders travel around the world and they find spouses from other parts of the world and have kids. Yet, still today the population remains the most genetically homogenous in the North Atlantic. If you are a genetic researcher, this could be of great interest to your research, where you advantageously can use the knowledge both when it comes to monogenic and more complex disorders.

In this context the project of FarGen was created, a whole-genome sequencing of individuals, that are living in the Faroe Islands. FarGen is managed by the Genetic Biobank of the Faroe Islands. A Biobank that aims to generate an infrastructure of genomic data for research purpose only. FarGen is at the moment in the initial phase of the project sequending 1500 individuals, that are about to be whole-genome sequenced.

The Genetic Biobank of the Faroe Islands administrates three registries comprising tissue, diagnosis and genealogy of the Faroese people. With the FarGen data the tissue registry will be extended to also include whole-genome sequencing data. This unique resource will enable a population of a wide study of how genes, environment, and lifestyle affect the health of the Faroese people. In addition, the FarGen-infrastructure will give rise to a large number of spin-off projects that will increase our knowledge about general human conditions, increasing our understanding of genetic diseases, and eventually enable future development of patient-specific medication.

With so few new genes being introduced into the population for centuries, the existing genes of the population have been passed around, and around, and around.  Because of this, there are very high incidences of some genetically transmitted diseases, one of them being CTD, carnitine transporter deficiency. The death of a young man, Edmund Jensen, and his family members, spurred the Faroe Islands to action and this particular genetic mutation was reveiled resulting in every Faroese needing to check their carnitine levels to rule out CTD disease.

FarGen is leading the Faroe Islands genome segmentation on many fronts. Several questions are related to the project, such as questions about ethics, of responsibility, of liability and of privacy will all have to be addressed as this project unfolds, but the project holds the potential for life-changing discoveries on the medical front that will benefit not only Faroe Islanders, but many of the rest of us too.

Hear more about the project when visiting the Faroe Islands. The Biobank is open for cooperation with both academic and commercial entities, senior Scientists as well as Students in medicine, biomedicine, Mol. Biology, etc.

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