Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? It was a viral campaign on social media that was done in the summer of 2014. People posted photos and short videos of themselves having a bucket of ice water dumped over their heads. The goal was to raise awareness, and money for ALS. It turns out – it worked!
ALS is the abbreviation of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. It is also called Lou Gherig’s disease, after baseball player Lou Gherig’s who was diagnosed with ALS.
ALS is a motor neuron disease that causes nerve cells to break down and die. Symptoms often begin with muscle twitching, weakness in an arm or leg, and sometimes slurring of speech. ALS can continue to affect a person’s ability to move more muscles, to speak, eat, and breath. There is no cure.
In the summer of 2014, the Ice Bucket Challenge went viral across the internet. The rules were simple. People had to make one of two choices: donate money to Johns Hopkins University (which will be used for research on ALS) or pour a bucket of ice water over your head. Many people chose to do both. Plenty of celebrities participated in the challenge. In six weeks time, the Ice Bucket Challenge raised $115 million dollars.
As a result, there was a breakthrough study that was published in Science Magazine. The study was called “TDP – 43 repression of nonconserved cryptic exons is compromised in ALS-FTD”. The research was done by Johns Hopkins University lab.
In short, the study focuses on a protein called TDP – 43. That protein may be responsible for cell death in the brains and spinal cords of people who have ALS. The research indicates that maybe the TDP – 43 protein could be could be replaced by a custom-designed protein that would allow cells to return to normal.
To be clear, this is not a cure. At least, not an immediate one. More research needs to be done. However, this discovery is a breakthrough that was funded by the popular Ice Bucket Challenge. The discovery could lend itself to other conditions as well (such as dementia).
Sometimes, awareness campaigns that raise money for research on a particular disease really do result in breakthrough advancements. One thing that helped the Ice Bucket Challenge raise so much money was that the videos of people doing the challenge went viral. All of the money donated with to ALS research.
Not all awareness campaigns are as successful. The campaigns that require people to buy a product, and have the store give a portion of the cost to research on a particular disease, don’t typically go this well. The reason is because only a small portion of the money you spent on the product actually goes towards research.
Image by slgckgc on Flickr.
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