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Prize winner to donate funds from Israeli university to Arab researchers

BMJ 2003; 327 doi: (Published 31 July 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:250
  1. Judy Siegel-Itzkovich
  1. Jerusalem

    Sir John Sulston, the British winner of the 2002 Nobel prize in genetics, has donated almost a third of prize money he received last year to advance joint Israeli-Palestinian research on genes that cause deafness in both populations.

    Scientific cooperation between the two peoples has floundered since the intifada began in September 2000. Before then some 200 joint research projects were carried out.

    Sir John was one of three scientists who shared the $1m (£0.61m; €0.87m) Dan David prize for the life sciences awarded by Tel Aviv University last year. After previously contributing $100 000 for Israeli student scholarships, he has just decided to give an additional $100 000 of his share to cover the tuition, stipends, and dormitory expenses of several Palestinian graduate students who will spend time at the university.

    Hereditary deafness is very common in the world's Arab and Palestinian populations, because of the high rate of marriage between cousins, which passes on recessive genes from parents who are ill or asymptomatic carriers.

    Professor Karen Avraham of Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine notes that in some Palestinian villages one in 10 children are profoundly deaf. Some cases of hereditary deafness also occur among Jewish people. Over 130 genes involved in hearing problems are known, five of which occur in Israeli Jews and Palestinians, although only one of the genes is shared by both groups. At least 10 more genes are believed to cause hereditary deafness in the two populations, and the joint research will focus on these.

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