Icelanders' DNA Helps Map Disease

REYKJAVIK, Iceland-Pharmaceutical company Hoffman-La Roche will try to develop a schizophrenia drug based on information from the Icelandic gene pool.

A research project done by deCODE genetics in Iceland has been using the entire Icelandic population as a study subject. Kari Stefansson, deCODE CEO, said the majority of the country's 270,000 people have been included in the DNA database.

Roche agreed to pay the company $200 million for information gathered from the country's DNA. Since the deal was signed in February 1998, deCode has found genes related to eight different diseases.

The schizophrenia gene encodes a protein that appears to be involved with the disease itself. Another protein that interacts with the one made by the gene may also provide a target for a drug.

Schizophrenia affects 1% of the global population and usually appears during adolescence or young adulthood. Drugs can currently control hallucinations, delusions, and emotional disturbances caused by the disease.

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