The ALS Association has announced the viral Ice Bucket Challenge has funded a scientific gene breakthrough in the progressive neurodegenerative disease.
The challenge, which saw anybody and everybody pour freezing cold water over their head, is one of the biggest social media campaigns to date. Facebook was awash with videos from the likes of Ellen Degeneres, Bill Gates and Anna Wintour being among the 17 million people to upload videos, raising over £87.7m ($114m). Charlie Sheen famously poured the $10,000 dollars, that he later donated, on himself rather than water.
The scientific discovery by Project MinE, identifies a new gene, NEK1, that ranks among the most common genes that contributes to ALS. Although only associated in 3 per cent of ALS cases, the gene is present in both inherited and sporadic forms of the incurable disease, which scientist have said now gives them a new target for further drug development .
“It’s very exciting because it shoes everyone who contributed to the ice bucket challenge that their donation had in impact on the research.” Brian Frederick, executive vice president of communications and development at the ALS Association explained to the BBC. “The work that Project MinE is doing is really important, and the discovery of this new gene will help us better understand ALS.”
Stephen Hawking is the best-known person suffering from the disease, better known in Britain as the Motor Neurone Disease, which also benefited from the fundraising.
In 2015 the Webby Awards honoured the ALS Association with a Special Achievement Award in recognition of their fundraising challenge.