Your genetics differs from that of your neighbour and this means you may differ in your risk of getting particular diseases. These genetic differences, known as genetic variation, contribute to inherited differences in susceptibility to many common diseases, such as cancer and heart disease. This can be investigated by comparing genetic differences between individuals with a specific disease to those without the disease.

However, in order to work out which genetic differences between people with and without a disease are potentially contributing to the disease, researchers need to know about the variation that is due to differing history and geography. This is the underlying pattern of genetic variation across the country. When this pattern is taken into account, any remaining differences may be important in understanding the genetics involved in the disease and can be looked into more closely.

To determine the genetic patterns across the British Isles, we will use genetic “markers” to look at every individual sample. One might expect, for example, to find fewer genetic differences between people inCornwall and Devon than Cornwall and the Shetlands because, historically, there has been less movement between the more distant counties.

Once these genetic patterns have been identified, it should also be possible to use them to investigate historical patterns of movement within the UK. As well as this, comparison of these patterns with results from other populations that surround the UK, such as the Scandanavians, French and Germans, should help us to understand the impact they have had on the British over the Centuries.

Further work with these samples will allow other researchers to search for genes involved with common diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Our own work will allow us to investigate the genetics behind particular facial features and other normal traits such as skin, hair and eye color, as well as some taste preferences.