"Dr. Kari Stefansson can trace his ancestry back 1,100 years. That's almost unheard of in the U.S., but in his native Iceland, where genealogy is a national obsession, it hardly raises an eyebrow."
An article in the current edition of Time Magazine goes on to describe the genetic anomaly of Iceland. The country was settled by a few Norsemen and Celts in the 9th century A.D. and had little immigration after that. The country remained an isolated population for centuries, with excellent documentation of nearly all births, marriages, and deaths. It is a genealogist's dream although few of us can benefit by claiming Icelandic ancestry.
Iceland's genealogical records produce a potential gold mine for isolating genes. Now the country is in the midst of the world's greatest genetic experiment, an attempt to mine the gene pool of an entire country in search of the root causes of -- and potential cures for -- some of the world's worst diseases. deCODE Genetics, a company that Dr. Kari Stefansson co-founded in his home city of Reykjavík, has discovered more than a dozen genes linked to diseases ranging from stroke to schizophrenia. Last month, deCODE announced that it had found a gene that boosts the risk of Type 2 diabetes. In addition, within a few weeks, the company will start the final phase of trials for a drug based on a newly identified heart-attack gene that appears to be especially dangerous in African Americans.
This is a fascinating story of how the combination of genealogy and genetics can produce life-saving information that will benefit millions of people around the world.
You can read the article on Time's web site at http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1158968,00.html.
NOTE: You should read the article now because Time has a habit of removing articles from its web site a week or two after publication.