The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Funds New Gene Discovery

Activism done right.

Two summers ago, the Ice Bucket Challenge took over the Internet. To refresh your memory, the 2014 viral sensation involved people dumping buckets of ice water over their heads to raise awareness and generate funding for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (also called ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease).

ALS a rapidly progressive, invariably fatal neurological disease that diminishes voluntary muscles, according to the National Institutes of Health. Currently there is no cure.

17 million people — including many celebrities — uploaded Ice Bucket Challenge videos in 2014. They were watched by more than 440 million people and raised over $115 million for ALS research.

Here are a few notable examples:

Some critics said the Ice Bucket Challenge was "slacktivism" (basically, lazy activism). But it turns out that it is being credited for funding new research that might eventually lead to a cure for some forms of the disease.

The ALS Association's Project MinE just completed the largest study of inherited ALS known as motor neurone disease (MND). Their research, published in the journal Nature Genetics on Monday, reveals the discovery of the gene NEK1.

Although this gene is associated with about 3 percent of all ALS cases, it is present is numerous forms of the disease. That means new treatments for ALS could be developed — and it all started with the funds collected from the Ice Bucket Challenge.

"It's very exciting because it shows everyone who contributed to the Ice Bucket Challenge that their donation had an impact on the research," said Brian Frederick, executive vice-president of communications and development at the ALS Association 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."

The Ice Bucket Challenge is also credited for helping researchers publish studies on ALS in 2015.


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