Parsi genome project to probe mysteries of longevity, cancer

More than 4,200 Parsis have so far given their blood samples for a genome project that aims at a comprehensive study of Zoroastrian individuals to explore the genetic basis of their longevity and higher incidence of breast cancer among their women.

The first focus of the analysis would be breast cancer and diabetes. “The output of this work should be visible in 2011 on these two specific areas,” said Dr Villoo Morawala-Patell, a Parsi and the brain behind the project.

Villoo said she expects to collect the blood samples of 15,000-20,000 Parsis of the total population of 67,000 in India by March next year. About 40 to 50 bio-informatics scientists are currently working on the project.

The project also aims at creating a genetic, genealogical and a medical database of India’s Parsi population, whose religion forbids marriage outside the community. The database would help develop unique biomarkers for universal use.

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