Ice Bucket Challenge contributes to scientific breakthrough

17 Aug 2015

A major report in the US has claimed there has been a significant scientific breakthrough on the back of the country’s ALS Ice Bucket Challenge last year, with Ireland’s Ice Bucket efforts also making a difference.

A reported US$100m was raised in the US over the course of the month-long viral funding campaign last year, which saw thousands of people chuck ice over themselves before challenging others to follow suit.

It was a remarkably successful project replicated in many other countries, each one affiliated to a particular charity.

In Ireland, more than €1.6m was raised for the Irish Motor Neuron Disease Association (IMNDA), with €600,000 put directly into research funding to help look at causes and treatment of a disease that affects hundreds of Irish people a year.

A third full-time nurse was hired with some of the funds – with the number of home visits required to help those suffering, every extra body can make a significant difference.

About €500,000 was put into the IMNDA to help support the growing number of registrations, with more than €300,000 set aside for specialist equipment.

On the back of a significantly larger sum of money, though, the US has seen an interesting piece of research that author Jonathan Ling hopes could lead to clinical trials of a promising new treatment technique “two to three years from now”.

Speaking in a Reddit AMA, Ling explained that his report focuses on faults in a protein called TDP-43, which is needed in the nucleus of cells.

“In the brains of ALS patients, some cells begin to get sick because TDP-43 becomes really sticky and clumps together outside the nucleus, where it can’t do its job,” he said.

Without TPD-43 – which Ling described as a librarian rifling through unsorted pages – keeping everything in order, proteins generated in the cell will in turn generate defective proteins known as cryptic exons.

Ling, a medical researcher at John Hopkins, creatively called these “nonsense pages” in DNA’s “instruction book”, while crediting his work to the money raised through the charitable pledges.

“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,” Ling wrote.

Main image via Shutterstock

Gordon Hunt was a journalist with Silicon Republic