The Ice Bucket Challenge Just Funded ALS Research


You didn't get wet for nothing, world: Money raised by the Ice Bucket Challenge, criticized for being "slacktivism," just helped identify a gene associated with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's disease.

The Ice Bucket Challenge swept social media in 2014 as a way to raise money for ALS, a neurodegenerative disease that kills nerve cells until patients can't control their muscles. The challenge asked was that you either donate to ALS research or dump an icy bucket of water on your head. Then you challenge a friend with the same ultimatum via social media, and so on. It went wild. Everyone was doing it. Hell, even Oprah did it.

However, the charity part wasn't the focus. You pour water on your head to avoid donating to charity — you donate if you don't dump the water. It was seen as a way to do nothing while claiming a charitable spirit, and at least, a way to waste a lot of water (sorry, California).

But not everyone took the icy way out, and in the end, the cause raised over $100 million in donations. And according to researchers at Project Mine, that funding helped identify a gene called NEK1. It's only present in 3% of ALS cases, but it could still help create new treatments for a fatal disease that currently affects roughly 30,000 Americans.

There's still a ways to go in understanding ALS. But this is a promising start.

"It's very exciting because it shows everyone who contributed to the Ice Bucket Challenge that their donation had an impact on the research," Brian Frederick, executive vice president of communications and development at the ALS Association, said, according to the Guardian. "The work that Project Mine is doing is really important, and the discovery of this new gene will help us better understand ALS."

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