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Lady Gaga does the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge
Gaga does the ALS Ice Bucket Challengevia YouTube

The ice bucket challenge funded a major ALS breakthrough

Despite being dismissed as ‘slacktivism’, the viral craze actually proved to be an effective fundraiser

Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? The viral video craze – which drew in names like Anna Wintour, James Franco and Donatella Versace – was set up in the summer of 2014, and saw half the internet cover their bodies in bone-chilling water to raise funds for ALS sufferers.

Despite being dismissed at the time as an “inherently offensive” and “problematic” show of slacktivism, the challenge actually made a serious impact; reportedly raising more than $100 million in just 30 days. This money apparently led to the funding of a number of research projects, with one announcing a major breakthrough this week.

Project MinE – a data-driven initiative – used donations from the online phenomenon to identify a new gene on Monday (July 25). According to ALS Association company executive Brian Frederick, this discovery could potentially lead to a number of new treatment possibilities for the neurological disease, which currently has no cure.

“It’s very exciting because it shows everyone who contributed to the ice bucket challenge that their donation had an impact on the research,” stated Frederick. “The work that Project MinE is doing is really important, and the discovery of this new gene will help us better understand ALS.”

According to The Guardian, the newly discovered gene – known as NEK1 – is only seen in 3 per cent of ALS cases. However, researchers claim that the development will offer a new target for treatment development.

“It helps us understand what’s triggering this and can help us better find a treatment,” explained Frederick, before adding that researchers were “still very early” in their understanding of the gene. “We still have a ways to go with understanding ALS generally.”

Nevertheless, it sounds like a positive step forward. Let’s all rewatch this classic contribution from David Lynch to celebrate: