Working in Utah has several distinct advantages for Juneau’s population-based disease gene-mapping programs. More human disease genes have been mapped and discovered using the exceptional population of the Intermountain West than with any other population. Some of the reasons for the incredible success of genetic research in Utah are:
Utah has, on average, larger family sizes and a significantly higher birth rate than other states. Utah has experienced incredibly fast population expansion over the past 150 years, which creates an ideal environment of extended families of multiple generations to quickly determine heritability of complex diseases.
Fewer errors occur when studying extended families in Utah because the incidence of “non-paternity” (unknown or incorrectly attributed fathers) is lower (<1% among Utah residents versus approximately 10% for the U.S.).
While the population is predominately Caucasian, all ethnic and racial groups are present in our gene discovery collections.
The population is highly educated and enthusiastic about research and medical advances and the enthusiasm for our studies is particularly high among patients.
Families are generally well informed about their personal genealogy and family history. Family members tend to be knowledgeable about their relatives and keep in touch with them. Family reunions and family newsletters are common.
The medical care in Utah and in the Intermountain West is centralized in the Salt Lake metropolitan area within 50 miles of Juneau Biosciences’ laboratories and is of high quality, making confirmation of medical conditions easier.
Read more about it in the New York Times article, “By Accident, Utah Is Proving An Ideal Genetic Laboratory.”