at are involved in predisposition to osteoporosis," said Dr Wilson, from the MRC Human Genetics Unit at the Western General.
"If 100 people in a big city had osteoporosis there might be 100 different reasons why they had it, many of which would be genetic. But on a small island there would be many fewer genetic reasons, which would make each one easier to identify."
Although the gene pool among Orkney families is isolated from the rest of the UK population, it is expected that the results of the study will still be applicable to the wider population, as have results from studies in Iceland.
The new study will piggyback on an existing research project in Orkney (ORCADES) which has involved 1, 400 volunteers and is looking at genetic influences on cardiovascular disease.
Two research nurses will run sessions to test the bone density of volunteers in Kirkwall, Orkney's largest town, which is regularly visited by people living on the smaller isles.
Recruits will have their bone mineral density tested on a DEXA (Dual Energy X-ray Bone Densitometer) machine, and if they are found to have thin bones will be offered appropriate treatment via their GP. They will also have blood samples taken, and a genome wide scan carried out on their DNA in laboratories in Edinburgh.
Professor Ralston said he and the rest of the team were confident that new genes that predispose people to osteoporosis would be found during the course of the project.
"If our studies are successful, the results will be of value in developing genetic tests with which to assess the risk of fractures occurring, and new drugs that can be used for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis," he added.
Recruitment will start this month.
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