Shetland's relatively stable gene pool could hold the key to identifying life-threatening genetic illnesses, scientists say.

Experts have been awarded more than £600,000 to recruit 2000 volunteers from Shetland, where the gene pool is less diverse than other parts of the UK.

The work could unlock the genetic markers for diseases such heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

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Researchers will use genetic analysis techniques to find the gene variants that increase the risk of developing illnesses such as glaucoma and lung disease.

The team will also investigate how genes con-tribute to skills such as sense of direction and in intellectual issues including cognitive decline in old age.

Dr Jim Wilson, from the Edinburgh University's Centre for Population Health Studies, said: "Research like this helps us to understand how our genes interact with our environment and behaviour to affect our health. In this way the Viking Health Study should benefit future generations across Scotland and beyond."

Participants will have a number of measurements taken, including weight, blood pressure and heart rhythm, and will be asked to give a blood sample.