The Ice Bucket Challenge, a viral sensation that helped to raise over a hundred million dollars to fund ALS research, helped scientists discover a new gene that causes the disease.
Though the challenge -- which involved pouring a bucket of ice over the participant’s head and attracted such high profile participants as former President George W. Bush -- was sometimes criticized as nothing more than a stunt, it ultimately helped to fund six research projects including the one that found the gene NEK1.
“The sophisticated gene analysis that led to this finding was only possible because of the large number of ALS samples available,” ALS Association spokesperson Lucie Brujin told the BBC.
The NEK1 gene could provide insight into understanding and potentially treating ALS, and allows scientists to develop a gene therapy that can treat the disease.
The gene, which is responsible for ALS, was discovered by the University of Massachusetts Medical School's Project MinE. The ALS Association donated $1 million to Project MinE, leading to the discovery of the gene.
“The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge enabled us to secure funding from new sources in new parts of the world,” ALS patient and Project MinE founder Bernard Muller said in a statement, the New York Daily News reported. “This transatlantic collaboration supports our global gene hunt to identify the genetic drivers of ALS."
The Ice Bucket Challenge, BBC reported, was done by over 17 million people through videos on Facebook and received over 440 million views.
ALS is a progressive disease that affects the brain and spinal cord by attacking nerves that control movement. It leads to patients’ bodies failing rendering them unable to move, talk and eventually breathe.
There is no cure for the disease, and approximately 5,000 people are diagnosed each year in the United States. Though just 10 percent of ALS patients have the inherited form of the disease, researchers reportedly believe that genetics ultimately contribute to a larger percentage of ALS cases.