Italian telethon raises EUR 30 million for biomedical research
Italy's annual telethon has raised over EUR 30 million for research into finding a cure for Muscular Dystrophy and other genetic diseases.
The total amount raised during the 32-hour TV marathon, which took place from 15 to 17 December, is slightly higher than in 2005, and is expected to grow when all donations are counted.
Since its inception in 1991, the telethon has financed hundreds of research projects into genetic diseases, as well as specialised institutes and tissue and DNA banks. The money raised is also used to help the career development of scientists in the field.
Thanks to generous support from the Italian public over the last 15 years, researchers have successfully identified and characterised the genes and the mechanisms involved in several hereditary diseases and have made important clinical discoveries.
One major result was the finding of two genes responsible for Timothy syndrome and short QT syndrome type 3. These are two forms of cardiovascular diseases characterised by sudden death and ECG (electrocardiograms) abnormalities.
Other genes identified with Telethon funds include PINK1, which is responsible for a familial form of recessive Parkinson's disease; ETHE1 which, if defective, causes a devastating infantile metabolic disorder; and MYH1, a gene responsible for hereditary deafness.
Results have also led to the elucidation of the molecular mechanisms underlying two genetic diseases: the neuropathy Charcot-Marie-Tooth type 4B and a form of hereditary deafness depending upon deficit of connexin 26.
December is clearly the season for such initiatives. During its annual telethon on 7 and 8 December, France raised over €101.5 million for medical research into muscle-wasting diseases, while on 14 December, Germany raised over €5.4 million for research into leukaemia. The campaign was led for the 12th year running by José Carreras, a Spanish singer who won the battle with leukaemia at the height of his career in 1987. Since 1995, he has presented a yearly live televised benefit gala concert in Leipzig to raise funds for his foundation, the José Carreras International Leukaemia Foundation. Over €62 million have been raised by this event.