Genetics, medicine, and the Plain people

Annu Rev Genomics Hum Genet. 2009;10:513-36. doi: 10.1146/annurev-genom-082908-150040.

Abstract

The Old Order Amish and Old Order Mennonite populations of Pennsylvania are descended from Swiss Anabaptist immigrants who came to the New World in the early eighteenth century. Today they live in many small endogamous demes across North America. Genetically, these demes have dissimilar allele frequencies and disease spectra owing to unique founders. Biological and social aspects of Old Order communities make them ideal for studies in population genetics and genomic medicine, and over the last 40 years, advances in genomic science coincided with investigational studies in Plain populations. Newer molecular genetic technologies are sufficiently informative, rapid, and flexible to use in a clinical setting, and we have successfully integrated these tools into a rural pediatric practice. Our studies with the Pennsylvania Plain communities show that population-specific genetic knowledge provides a powerful framework in which to prevent disease, reduce medical costs, and create new insights into human biology.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • Genetics, Medical
  • Genetics, Population*
  • Genome, Human
  • Health Care Costs
  • Humans
  • Maryland
  • Pennsylvania