Three decades ago, the Children’s Medical Research Institute (CMRI) came up with a unique way to raise some much-needed funds to help children in need.
It decided to encourage everyday Australians to swap their usual work attire or school uniform for denim jeans for just one day in exchange for gold coin donations, with the proceeds going to medical research.
What’s the day?
Called Jeans for Genes Day, the event was successful beyond all expectations, with the event evolving to include millions of Australians undertaking a variety of unique fundraising initiatives.
Celebrating its 30th anniversary this August, the initiative has seen more than $63 million directed to CMRI scientists to find treatments and cures for genetic diseases, including cancer and other serious conditions that affect one in every 20 Australian children.
With many schools and workplaces taking up the challenge, fundraising initiatives include everything from cupcake sales to long-distance running challenges.
According to the CMRI website, genetic diseases are caused by errors in our DNA, the source of information for all the cells in our body, telling them what to do.
When something goes wrong with those instructions, it means some part of our body doesn’t function properly, leading to a life-threatening genetic disease like cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, metabolic disorders or even cancer.
The best way to treat or cure many of these conditions is to correct the problem at the source, to correct the DNA. That’s what gene therapy does, the CMRI states.
“A gene with the correct DNA information is inserted, which is harmless, but functions as a delivery vehicle that can go into the cells of a patient to correct the DNA information and restore normal function. This is already being used to treat diseases like haemophilia and spinal muscular atrophy.”
The work completed by the scientists and clinicians at CMRI is achieving worldwide recognition. Its achievements include conducting the first-ever clinical trial to correct a genetic disease using gene therapy in Australia (SCID-X1 deficiency or “boy in the bubble disease”). It was also the first outside North America to trial a cure for spinal muscular atrophy.
Currently, the CMRI is working on gene therapy to find cures for previously incurable genetic diseases such as Propionic Acidemia and OTC deficiency.
This year the CMRI set an ambitious target of raising a further $2.5 million for Jeans for Genes Day.