The ALS Association has discovered 3 new genes that will help identify new treatment
The Ice Bucket Challenge, a fundraiser for ALS research that went viral in 2014 and raised over $220 million, announced earlier this week that the funding has allowed scientists to identify a common gene that contributes to the development of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
The socially-driven campaign dominated social media feeds around the world and encouraged over 17 million people to post videos of themselves dumping buckets of ice-cold water over their heads in order to raise funds to further ALS –also called Lou Gehrig’s Disease—medical research.
The neurodegenerative disease causes nerve cells in the spinal cord to deteriorate, leading to a loss of muscle control, and eventually total paralysis. Within two to five years of being diagnosed, ALS patients lose their ability to breathe, which leads to their death.
The ALS Association reported that in just eight weeks, $115 million was donated to the the non-profit organization, 67% of which was dedicated to advancing research for treatments and a cure.
One million dollars of the funds raised went towards Project MinE, a University of Massachusetts Medical School Project that was able to identify a common gene that is responsible for the degenerative disease. According to the study’s preliminary findings, the newly identified NEK1 gene is believed to impact who develops the disease, with variants of the gene appearing to lead to an increased risk. The research provides a potential target for therapy development, and brings scientists one step closer to treating the fatal neurological disease.
“The sophisticated gene analysis that led to this finding was only possible because of the large number of ALS samples available,” said Dr. Lucie Bruijin, Chief Scientist at the ALS Association. “The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge enabled The ALS Association to invest in Project MinE’s work to create large biorepositories of ALS biosamples that are designed to allow exactly this kind of research and to produce exactly this kind of result.”
The ALS Association said this is the third ALS-related gene researchers have discovered using money from the 2014 Ice Bucket Challenge.