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Half a million Swedes to fill giant gene bank

Paul O'Mahony · 30 May 2010, 12:42

Published: 30 May 2010 12:42 GMT+02:00

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Hundreds of thousands of Swedes will be approached this autumn by the mammoth LifeGene project and asked if they wish to participate in Sweden’s largest ever health-related population study.

Leading medical university Karolinska Institutet will host the project, which has secured the approval of the national Ethics Review Board.

Participants will donate blood and urine samples, which are to be frozen and stored in a gigantic underground facility at Karolinska Institutet in Solna, just north of Stockholm. People taking part in the project will also answer general question about their lives and habits as researchers seek to better understand the links between lifestyle, environment, genes, and disease.

LifeGene aims to build up a database of genetic material from half a million people aged 0 to 45. By following the development of participants’ health over a long period, LifeGene will allow researchers at home and abroad to explore the development of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, asthma, and heart illnesses.

All gene data collected for the project is to be coded, and LifeGene has pledged not to release any information that could lead to the identification of participants.

But Jan Wahlström, a professor of clinical genetics at Gothenburg University, has called for more debate on the potential ethical ramifications of the project. Speaking to Dagens Nyheter, he asked:

“Do we want our genes used in a study of markers showing when we’re going to die, for example? And can we be certain that information about the genes won’t fall into the wrong hands in the future?”

Story continues below…

LifeGene's operating manager Jens Mattsson countered that the risk of identification was "non-existent".

Paul O'Mahony (paul.omahony@thelocal.com)

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Your comments about this article

15:32 May 30, 2010 by Michael84
That's really cool
18:23 May 30, 2010 by proteasome
Now we will find out why everyone is named Johansson, or Andersson or Karlsson... Inbreeding!
21:57 May 30, 2010 by Luke35711
In most other countries, I would say: great idea! In Sweden, I am sure manipulative Big Government will find some sad Orwellian way to make this work against the people,

rather than for the people. They might not identify individuals, but with time they will learn exactly how an individual works. So that there is no longer an individual, there is only Big Brother. There is actually a suitable term in biology: "slavemaking instinct". This project raises huge concerns about protection of privacy, human dignity, and individual liberties.
22:09 May 30, 2010 by glamshek
The information leading to death is only to God...SO need not worry. This is one area where we can bet 101%.
14:57 May 31, 2010 by Barnflicka90
The information leading to death is only to God? I dont understand "Glamshek" This is actually a really good idea. I think that more countries should do large studies such as this one. Maybe one day we will actually discover cures and causes for things we still cannot fix.
23:18 June 1, 2010 by Tiddler
Gene info is worth a fortune, and here is half a million Swedes just giving it away for free, complete numbskulls.

Only in Sweden, aka the Stepford Wives but on a much larger scale.
21:58 June 4, 2010 by suckfist
All they'd get is a sperm sample from me.
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