In 2014, the ALS Association introduced something that became surprisingly popular. It was called the Ice Bucket Challenge. The money that was donated as a part of the challenge has been put to good use. There is still more work to be done, though. That’s why August is for raising awareness of ALS.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, is also called Lou Gehrig’s disease. He was a famous baseball player who brought attention to ALS in 1939 when it was revealed that he had the disease. The disease was originally discovered by French neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot in 1869.
ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the spinal cord through the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons, due to ALS, causes the motor neurons to die. When this happens, it prevents the brain from being able to initiate and control muscle movement.
In 2014, the Ice Bucket Challenge caused millions of people to start talking about ALS. This helped to increase understanding of this disease. It also resulted in a new and important finding. about the genetic factors associated with ALS. The NEK1 gene is now known as one of the most common genetic contributors of ALS.
NEK1 was discovered by more than 80 researchers in 11 countries who contribute to Project MinE’s global DNA sequencing effort. It is the largest precision medicine program of its kind. The project examines the genetic makeup of 15,000 people living with ALS and 7,500 healthy people around the globe. A later discovery found that the NEK1 gene was involved in the maintenance of the cytoskeleton of the cell, which helps the cell maintain its shape.
Ultimately, the goal is to uncover all genes that are responsible for ALS. To help, the ALS Association was able to give a $1 million grant to Project MinE. The money came from donations made as part of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.
The ALS Association points out: “You can make the impossible happen…again”. The way to help fund research about ALS is to do the Ice Bucket Challenge in August, every August, and to encourage others to do so as well. The ALS Association says “Every Drop Adds Up”. It builds on the idea that when people come together, we can make the impossible happen.”
Image by slgckgc on Flickr
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