News & Politics

'Silly' Ice Bucket Challenge Leads to ALS Breakthrough

Tennessee Titans players take part in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

Via Reuters:

The Ice Bucket Challenge that went viral two years ago, raising hundreds of millions of dollars, has helped identify a new gene behind the neurodegenerative disease ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, researchers say.

The challenge involved people pouring ice-cold water over their heads, posting video on social media, and donating funds for research on the condition, whose sufferers include British physicist Stephen Hawking.

Celebrities including Taylor Swift, Kim Kardashian, Ellen DeGeneres, Benedict Cumberbatch and former U.S. President George W. Bush were among millions of people who took part in 2014, attracting more than 400 million views on social media.

The challenge raised $220 million worldwide, according to the Washington-based ALS Association. News of the gene discovery again sent Ice Bucket Challenge viral, proving one of the top trending topics on Twitter on Wednesday.

The money funded the largest ever study of inherited ALS and identified a new gene, NEK1, that ranks among the most common genes that contribute to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, the ALS Association said in a statement on Monday.

“Global collaboration among scientists, which was really made possible by ALS Ice Bucket Challenge donations, led to this important discovery,” said John Landers of the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Landers and Jan Veldink of University Medical Center Utrecht led the study involving researchers in 11 countries.

My former PJTV colleague Michelle Fields challenged me and I gladly accepted. I nominated four people, and decided to up the stakes by taking one freezing bucket for each nomination. Alas, it was a PJTV video and no longer with us. If you can find one somewhere out there please let me know and I’ll gladly share my fat, frozen face for all of you to laugh at.

It seemed innocent enough and like a good idea at the time, but I remember a lot of people complaining about it. I posted what I thought was an innocuous story on Facebook about how much money was being raised and a heated comments discussion ensued (longest one ever on my page too) that covered a variety of objections. When I say heated, I mean heated. My FB page is fairly benign and people were really going at it. Some people objected to stem cell research, which I understand. Most complaints were of the, “I’m going to pretend I’m above this silly social media phenomenon stuff” variety that people are forever ironically trying to prove on social media. Social media is never low on people who are eager to tell you they’re better than social media, after all.

Anyway, it’s nice to see some good come out of this.

If that offends anyone, I’m sure I’ll hear about it.