Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge in the summer of 2014?
Every time you turned around, social media was showing someone dumping a bucket of icy water over his or her head—or coming up with a quirky way to “take the challenge”—in order to raise funds to find a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), aka Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Now it may bring us closer to a cure.
Ice Bucket donations paid for the largest-ever study of ALS, a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects the brain and spinal cord and frequently leads to paralysis and death as quickly as two years from diagnosis. It often runs in families.
Result: A breakthrough discovery of a new gene called NEK1, which is involved in many neuron functions. Some variants of the gene are prone to loss of function. The researchers found a significant association between this genetic abnormality and increased risk for familial ALS. While only a small percentage of people with ALS have the familial kind, the researchers believe that NEK1 may also be involved in nonfamilial ALS.
While there isn’t a cure—yet—understanding more about NEK1 is an important step toward developing treatment for this devastating disease.
All that ice, dumped on all those shivering heads and shoulders, made it possible.