Dr. John Landers, a professor from UMass Medical School in Worcester, Massachusetts, led a group of international researchers in finding a direct link between a specific gene and ALS. Along with Dr. Jan Veldink of University Medical Center Utrecht, both researchers conducting the most extensive research project ever into the causes of familial ALS. This project involved contributions from over 80 researchers in 11 countries. And how was this project funded? Through contributions generated through the Facebook “Ice Bucket Challenge”, where friends dared each other to be doused by a bucket of icy water. This was an international sensation where people around the world, and many leaders and celebrities got involved.
“Global collaboration among scientists, which was really made possible by ALS Ice Bucket Challenge donations, led to this important discovery,” Dr. Landers said in a statement. “It is a prime example of the success that can come from the combined efforts of so many people, all dedicated to finding the causes of ALS. This kind of collaborative study is, more and more, where the field is headed.”
The gene, NEK1, was discovered through an exhaustive search for ALS genes in 1000+ families and was found in a small location in The Netherlands. The research was published today in Nature Genetics.
According to wikipedia, ALS, (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) is a specific disorder that involves the death of neurons that control voluntary muscles and is characterized by stiff muscles, muscle twitching and gradually worsening due to muscles decreasing in size. This results in difficulty speaking, swallowing and eventually breathing.