A few years ago, the internet was decorated with endless videos of celebrities, athletes, and regular folks alike dumping buckets of ice water over their heads and challenging their friends to participate. The Ice Bucket Challenge may have earned a few groans from cynics, but the viral campaign also raised a ton of money. More than 17 million participants helped raise over $220 million in 2014 alone, arming scientists with the tools needed to continue their research on ALS.
Now, it looks like those YouTube clips are paying off, as The University of Massachusetts Medical School's Project MinE made a new discovery: a gene linked to the debilitating disease. With help from the ALS Associated, which donated $1 million from the challenge, researchers were able to identify the gene NEK1, which might lead to a greater understanding of the disease and a possible treatment.
"The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge enabled us to secure funding from new sources in new parts of the world," Bernard Muller, founder of Project MinE and an ALS patient, said, according to the New York Daily News. "This transatlantic collaboration supports our global gene hunt to identify the genetic drivers of ALS.
This comes after scientists saw a major breakthrough last year while focusing on the protein TDP-43, which is said to contribute to cell death in the brain or spinal cord of patients with the disease. They constructed a new protein which would have those cells return back to normal.
There are plenty of things to be cynical about, but the Ice Bucket Challenge isn’t one of them.