Various field research made possible the collection of biological samples from the island of Hvar due to the following projects: Integrated GWAS and EWAS of Cardiometabolic Traits in an Island Population (2016 – ZO17, National Institutes of Health (NIH), USA), Genetics of Metabolic Syndrome in an Island population (2006-2008, National Institutes of Health, (NIH), USA), Koster Health project (1994, University of Gothenburg, Sweden) and the First Croatian Health Project (1995-1997, World Bank) .
During 2017, the mentioned project “Study of genetic, epigenetic and environmental risk factors for cardiometabolic traits in the island population” was conducted. The main goal of the proposed study was to determine the genetic and environmental factors underlying the development of metabolic syndrome in the population of the island of Hvar. selected as an excellent model because of its long-standing genetic isolation, increased incidence of certain metabolic diseases, and well-preserved records of the family trees of the islanders. This study is a continuation of the project from 2007 and 2008 on a population of 700 of the same respondents, and aims to compare the change in epigenetic characteristics over the past 10 years (2007/2008 vs. 2017). Epigenome-wide methylation analysis (EWAS) was performed on the collected samples, and the obtained results were integrated with the results of a previously conducted genome-wide association study (GWAS), and the connection between genetic and epigenetic factors in the development of cardiometabolic disorders.
From 2015 to 2018, Hvar was involved in the project “Cohort of births on the Eastern Adriatic Islands (CRIBS)”. This project is a pilot study aimed at: assessing the prevalence of known risk factors (biological, ecological and behavioral) for the development of MetS in the target Croatian populations of the eastern Adriatic islands and the neighboring mainland and use the results as a basis for developing an intervention strategy. Population cohort studies of pregnant women and newborns are particularly suitable for studying early determinants of health and disease, which occur as early as the fetal period and childhood. The longitudinal research approach was applied to a representative sample of 713 respondents in each of the two groups: pregnant women and their children in the target populations of the islands (Hvar, Brač and Vis) and the neighboring mainland area of Split-Dalmatia County. The outcome of the project is the discovery of sets of important risk factors for the development of MetS in the studied Croatian populations. The long-term outcome is to gradually develop the basis for an effective intervention strategy focused on the essential risk factors for MetS. The importance of the findings of this pilot study is to lay the foundations for a future more targeted, population-oriented model of early intervention, by including a large number of essential risk factors for MetS development, which will make a significant contribution to public health. The knowledge and experience gained from the conducted research will contribute to the creation of more effective health promotion programs, based on the theory of planned behavior, taking into account the identified local socio-cultural and environmental specifics.