The “Genetic Park of Cilento and Vallo di Diano” project  was created in 2000. The acute intuition of Dr Graziella Persico was that in the National Park of Cilento it would be possible to identify some small populations having special features which could be useful in complex disease mapping studies. 

Understanding the genetic architecture of complex disorders such as hypertension, diabetes, obesity, cancer and neurodegenerative diseases is a major public health challenge.

Common diseases are the result of a complex interaction between environment and the susceptibility alleles of multiple genes. Our approach to deal with this complexity has been to conduct genetic studies in isolated populations of the Cilento region. In fact, in these populations the increased genetic homogeneity and life style uniformity, could be very useful in identifying gene variants involved in common diseases.

Geographic isolation, that characterize a great part of the Cilento region, was the first feature we considered when we were planning this project. Villages in the National Park of Cilento, are located in an inland hilly area which is not easily accessible. For this reason the inhabitants have been isolated for centuries. Until 50 years ago, marriages were mostly endogamous (marriages between people from the same village). In situations like this, a genetic homogeneity is created through the generations. In addition, there is also an uniformity of diet, life style and environment.

The project started in 12 villages of Cilento with a feasibility study, so far we have focused on the study of three populations: Campora, Gioi and Cardile.

Researchers with different expertise (biologists, doctors, statisticians, computer scientists) have worked together to collect data of the entire population of these villages and to build a extensive database including genealogical, clinical and genetic data in order to carried out genetic analyses.