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Gene Bank of 54 Ethnic Minorities Completed

It was announced Wednesday by Chinese scientists that they've completed a gene bank with over 8,000 DNA samples from all the country's ethnic minorities with the exception of the Gaoshan in Taiwan.

It's taken over four years to build the country's largest gene bank of minority groups with funding from the government, said Professor Xiao Chunjie, of southwest China's Yunnan University. The university managed the project.

He said the move was vital to preserve human genetic diversity as many nationalities throughout the world had interbred and disappeared. "Anthropologists and geneticists have shared the hope of building a gene bank since 1980 when the falling ethnic populations began to attract attention," observed Xiao.

Being home to 25 of the nation's 55 ethnic minorities, with its mountainous remoteness keeping its minorities isolated, Yunnan Province has been identified as home of the gene bank, he said. "The gene bank is indispensable to China and even the world," added Xiao.

With access to one of the world's most diverse genetic pools Xiao said the bank could help prevent and cure regional genetic diseases.

Scientists have been able to identify the genes which cause certain diseases after studying DNA samples. More than 6,600 diseases are known to be caused by a single gene disorder. Many fatal and chronic illnesses including coronary heart disease, diabetes, cancer and immune deficiency disorders are the result of multiple gene disorders.

(Xinhua News Agency August 31, 2006)

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