By Ilan Zipkin
Staff writer

The identification of disease-associated genes through the use of human genetic studies is difficult due to the often limited availability of suitable affected families, DNA samples and variability in physician diagnosis associated with such studies. To gain some advantage, researchers - including a number of biotech companies - have turned to small inbred populations with the goal of increasing the chances of identifying genetic markers linked to diseases found in those populations. Examples of founder populations include the island of Tristan da Cunha, Iceland, Finland and the Canadian province of Quebec.