Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? Of course you do. It was the viral sensation that swept the internet last summer where everyone on your friend list and hundred of famous celebrities dumped a bucked of ice water over their heads to raise awareness (and money) for ALS research.
At the time, a lot of critics spoke out loudly that getting your hair wet did nothing to actually fight the deadly disease. People were branded “slacktivists” for posting videos that generated plenty of likes, but few donations.
Turns out, that isn’t exactly true.
The popularity of the Ice Bucket Challenge actually raised over $100 million dollars, which is considerably more than the $2.8 million that the ALS Association raised in the same time frame the year before.
Not only that, but that money directly contributed to a major breakthrough in ALS research, according to Jonathan Ling, an ALS researcher.
Ling recently posted an AMA on Reddit, partly in an effort to clear up some of the misconceptions about the Ice Bucket Challenge. Ling wrote:
“I mainly wanted to do this AMA because I remember reading a lot of stories about people complaining that the ice bucket challenge was a waste and that scientists weren’t using the money to do research, etc. I assure you that this is absolutely false. All of your donations have been amazingly helpful and we have been working tirelessly to find a cure. With the amount of money that the ice bucket challenge raised, I feel that there’s a lot of hope and optimism now for real, meaningful therapies. After all, the best medicines come from a full understanding of a disease and without the financial stability to do high risk, high reward research, none of this would be possible!”
The breakthrough in question has to do with a specific protein in the body, called TDP-43. In layman’s terms, they found that this protein wasn’t doing it’s proper job in almost every case of ALS. Now that they know that, they are working on medical treatments (drugs, therepy, etc…) to artificially perform those tasks in the body. If successful, they hope to dramatically slow down the progression on ALS in patients.
The AMA has a bunch of more technical explanations, and is definitely worth the read if you are interested in that sort of thing.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, perhaps more commonly known as Lou Gerhig’s disease, has always been a deadly and complex disease, slowly deteriorating the muscles in a person’s body to the point of complete disability.