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Community / Volunteers sought for new Viking research project

Professor Jim Wilson.

A NEW scientific project into the genetic make-up of people from Orkney and Shetland hopes to attract four thousand new volunteers in order to build a detailed genetic picture of the Northern Isles.

The Viking II research study, based on the University of Edinburgh and funded by the Medical Research Council, is looking at the health and the genes of volunteers who have at least two grandparents born in Orkney or Shetland.

It follows on from the previous Viking Health Study, which saw 2,105 volunteers in Shetland come forward to help between 2013 and 2015.

Led by Professor Jim Wilson, the aim of the study is to better understand the causes of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, lung disease, stroke, and eye disease, among others.

These diseases strongly influence quality of life and this study has potential to help many people in future, Professor Wilson said.

A previous research project showed that the DNA of people from the Northern Isles is predominantly Scottish and just 20 per cent traceable to Norwegian ancestors.

Orkney and Shetland are nonetheless the most genetically distinct populations in the whole of Britain and Ireland, but are each other’s closest relatives.

Wilson will present his latest research during a lecture at the Shetland Museum and Archives in Lerwick tonight (Thursday). The lecture is already fully booked.

Those who are interested to take part in the Viking II study will be invited to fill in an online questionnaire and give a saliva sample, using a kit that will arrive in the post.

Speaking on Radio Orkney on Thursday morning, Wilson said: “We want to increase the size of the study so that we have much more power.

“The key difference this time is that people can live anywhere as long as they have two Orcadian or Shetlandic grandparents. You can live in Edinburgh, New Zealand, London, anywhere, because everything is done online.”

More details of the research project, including a volunteer information sheet, can be found at this University of Edinburgh webpage,

To get in touch with the research team call 0131 651 8557 or via email viking@ed.ac.uk