Insular, inbred communities such as the Ashkenazi Jews and several Indian tribes can be a bonanza of genetic information for researchers. Now the Amish and Mennonite communities in the United States are proving to be fertile ground as well for scientists who want to better understand the nature of genetic diseases and how rare illnesses occur more frequently in such closed-off communities.
The Amish, famous for their renunciation of a lot of technology, are embracing a lab that has been built in the centere of their community because their faith teaches them to "help their fellow man." Many of the Amish and Mennonite members recognize that they can help their own families and others if they help scientists better understand the genetic causes of diabetes, mental retardation, and some of the rarer diseases in their families.
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