Efforts to create a genetic map of Quebec begin in earnest this month as researchers start recruiting people willing to offer up their bodies' blueprints.

The University of Montréal-driven project aims to sign up the first 400 people from Montreal, Monteregie and the Eastern Townships, with the aim of eventually collecting data on health and disease from just over 20,000 people.

The government-funded project is expected to create one of the largest data and biobanks in Quebec and will be made available to health researchers.

"The genome of each human being contains enormous quantities of information. The analysis of this information can increase our understanding of the underlying processes of health and disease," Dr. Claude Laberge, a geneticist and scientific director of the CARTaGENE project, said in a release.

The initial subjects, all between the ages of 40 and 69, will be selected at random using a list provided by the province's health insurance board.

Laberge says focusing on subjects in this age group means researchers know they will find that one-third are already coping with a variety of ailments including hypertension, cardiovascular diseases and arthritis.

"But two-thirds have no problems and we want to also find out why they have no health problems, and what the contribution of the genome in the environment (is) in relation to health and illness," Laberge said.

The second phase aims to recruit participants from between the ages of 25 and 69.

Study participants will spend two hours with a registered nurse, who will conduct various physical tests such as an electrocardiogram and lung capacity and take blood and urine samples.

Participants will be followed for 50 years using different government lists and databases. The information is expected to help health professionals prepare for the types of illnesses likely to affect future generations.

The results from the Quebec bank will be compared to those being collected in 20 different biobanks worldwide, representing 35 countries.

With files from the Canadian Press