‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ Cash Leads to Breakthrough ALS Discovery

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It turns out viral videos are good for more than just mindless entertainment.

Viral videos of celebrities getting soaked by pails of ice-cold water in 2014 have helped lead to a scientific breakthrough, the ALS Association announced this week.

Research funded in part by donations from the 2014 ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has identified a new ALS gene, NEK1. This discovery gives scientists another potential target for developing treatments for ALS, which stands for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

The study, published in the journal Nature Genetics, was conducted by researchers who are part of a genetic sequencing effort called Project MinE. It was the largest-ever study of inherited ALS, involving contributions from more than 80 researchers in 11 countries.

Co-lead researcher John Landers of the University of Massachusetts Medical School writes in an article on the ALS Association’s website:

Since Project MinE received a $1 million grant from The ALS Association in the wake of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, we were able to expand our operation significantly. Your support has made a profound impact!

ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease after the famous baseball player who brought national attention to the progressive neurodegenerative disease before it took his life.

ALS affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord, leading to loss of control over muscle movement, paralysis and eventually death, according to the ALS Association.

Charity Navigator gives the ALS Association four out of four stars, while CharityWatch gives the association an “A-” rating.

To learn more about how to evaluate nonprofits, check out “6 Tips to Donate to Charity the Smart Way.”

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