Author(s): Jaworski MA, Severini A, Mansour G, Hennig K, Slater JD,
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Abstract The patterns of migration and the genetic disorders occurring among North American Mennonites are reviewed, and inherited conditions recently recognized in a religious and genetic isolate, the Old Colony (Chortitza) Mennonites, are described. Old Colony Mennonites are of Dutch/German origin and descend from approximately 400 founding families who settled in the Old Colony, Chortitza (the Ukraine, USSR) in the late 1700s, and then migrated to Canada and Central and South America in the past century. We investigated over 6 generations of a Canadian Old Colony kindred in which there was extensive intermarriage, and in whom 28 individuals developed diabetes mellitus. Insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) occurred in 14 affected individuals in 10 closely related sibships; the 11 living IDDM patients were all concordant for the immunogenetic marker HLA-DR4. Fourteen close relatives had other disorders of carbohydrate metabolism, including gestational diabetes and non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus. Other close relatives had autoimmune diseases, including rheumatoid arthritis, hyper- and hypothyroidism, multiple sclerosis, and red cell aplasia. Other inherited diseases, including Alport syndrome, congenital defects, and inborn errors of metabolism were also found in the kindred. In the almost exclusively (99\%) Old Colony Mennonite public health district in which the kindred was ascertained, there were multiple cases of Tourette syndrome, of malformations (including congenital heart defects and cleft lip +/- palate), and familial clusters of inborn errors of metabolism. We report this Old Colony (Chortitza) Mennonite isolate because 1) there are large familial aggregations of tissue-specific autoimmune diseases, malformations, inborn errors of metabolism, and of some other conditions whose genetic basis is still unknown; 2) there are multiple cases of rare genetic conditions, 3) we have established a computerized genealogic data base on over 1,000 kindred members as well as a cryopreserved lymphocyte/DNA bank on over 100 closely related individuals with various genetic conditions; and 4) this religious isolate, which extends across North, Central, and South America, offers an excellent opportunity for studying the epidemiology and molecular genetics of both common and rare inherited diseases.
This article was published in Am J Med Genet
and referenced in Journal of Molecular and Genetic Medicine