Ice Bucket Challenge leads researchers to ALS discovery

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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – AUGUST 22: Participants tip buckets of ice water over their heads as they take part in the World Record Ice Bucket Challenge at Etihad Stadium on August 22, 2014 in Melbourne, Australia. Over 700 people took part in setting the new world record. The Ice Bucket Challenge is the social media phenomenon […]

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Remember all of those Facebook videos of people getting ice-cold water dumped on their heads?

It appears that water didn’t go to waste after all, thanks to a new research breakthrough.

The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was a major social media craze two summers ago, to help raise money and awareness for Lou Gehrig’s disease. The campaign was wildly successful and attracted donations from the likes of Oprah, LeBron James, Bill Gates and many other celebrities.

Alongside the popularity, however, there were many critics. Some people in drought-stricken California, for instance, were concerned about the water waste. Others dismissed the Ice Bucket Challenge as “slacktivism.”

Data pix.

Now, scientists have announced a potential breakthrough, thanks to all of the money that was raised.

Nationally, 2.5 million people donated $115 million to the ALS Association. The organization says the event was probably the single largest episode of giving outside of a disaster or emergency.

A just-released study from the University of Massachusetts Medical School revealed that Project MinE , a global gene sequencing effort, has uncovered a new gene behind ALS cases, NEK1.

"The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge enabled us to secure funding from new sources in new parts of the world," said Bernard Muller, founder of Project MinE and an ALS patient. "This transatlantic collaboration supports our global gene hunt to identify the genetic drivers of ALS."

There are roughly 5,000 newly diagnosed cases of ALS in the United States each year.