The Ice Bucket Challenge Actually Helped in Funding High-Risk Studies for ALS

It’s been a year since the ice bucket challenge literally flooded our Facebook timelines. The good news: all that dumping of ice-cold water on our bodies did not go in vain.

The ice bucket challenge funneled serious money into ALS research

The ice bucket challenge was instituted by the ALS Association as a means to create awareness about ALS and to raise funds for research. ALS or Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis is a debilitating and progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells and the spinal cord. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 12,000-15,000 people in the United States suffer from ALS. Also, called Lou Gehrig’s disease, ALS has no cure, although some treatments may reverse or impede the progressive nerve damage. A lot of what happens at the cellular level in ALS is unknown. The ice bucket challenge raised about $220 million, which has helped clear some of the mystery.

Scientists at Johns Hopkins discover effects of key protein involved in ALS

Researchers Philip Wong and Jonathan Ling at Johns Hopkins University, who were working on ALS for about a decade, needed funding to study the effects of a protein called TDP-43. This protein was often found in clumps in ALS brains upon autopsy. It wasn’t known whether they caused the disease or were a result of it. The ice bucket challenge funding came at a crucial point, and they discovered that TDP-43 was essential for proper nerve function, and that by delivering a protein that mimicked the effects of TDP-43 in the nerve cells, they were able to prevent the cells from dying. This new protein mimic could thus be developed into a therapy to reduce nerve damage in ALS patients.

Biogen and Columbia University to map the genes involved in ALS

The ice bucket money will also be put to good use by a collaborative project between Biogen Inc. and Columbia University Medical Center. They plan to map out the genes and clinical traits of people with ALS. They believe that genes and the traits they control could give a clue to the bodily changes that occur much before the disease is diagnosed. This could help initiate early therapy and perhaps stall disease progression.

For all the flak the ice bucket challenge received, these promising studies should show that activism is not always slack.

So, what’s on your bucket list?

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