Buckets of ice lead to discovery


File photo

Story by Victoria Van, staff writer

The Ice Bucket Challenge went viral in 2014, sparking global interests. The phenomenon was embraced by the masses as it opened the eyes of people everywhere in order to spread awareness for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS, a disease that plagues 15 new people each day. The money donated from the challenge was soon used to fund research in efforts of learning more about the cause of the disease.

A groundbreaking development was brought to light when scientists discovered a gene mutation found in those with ALS. The gene is called NEK1. Scientists research more about the gene and how it affects people with ALS in order to create a database to be used in therapeutics. The discovery of a new gene can potentially help increase the chance of ridding the disease altogether.

People with ALS commonly suffer from weak muscles as their nerve cells break down. When the disease reaches a certain point, it often leads to paralyzation. Scientists have stated how ALS can be derived genetically but more commonly without a family history. Most people get ALS without prior family members being affected by the disease. The discovery of the new gene mutation has allowed scientists to target genes associated with the disease.

The awareness of the disease has had an overall positive outlook on those affected  ALS. It’s crucial to remember how social media has had the capabilities of extending a hand towards a friendly cause like the ALS Association.

“Social media brought the issue to light in a fun way that made people want to get involved,” sophomore Kayla Walthall said. “This speaks loudly to all that participated; you can help.”

The virality of the challenge was made possible because of how people were having fun with the it and sending the videos to all their friends. People around the globe donated and shared videos of themselves getting drenched for a good cause. Everyday people were able to participate in a cause greater than themselves.

“There are hundreds of thousands of diseases and conditions around the world that have not been given the attention they desperately need due to a lack of awareness and funding,” Walthall said. “Similarly, the discovery of the ALS gene could not have been accomplished this fast without the support of Ice Bucket Challenge.”

Students have shared their agreement in how the challenge has a positive effect.

“I truly believe that the ice bucket challenge helped increased public awareness of the disease.” freshman Katherine Page said. “I personally did not participate in the challenge but my mother did.”

Funding will continue towards The ALS Association so scientists can discover more about ALS. The reality of a new discovery is anticipated eagerly.

“I don’t think it would go away necessarily but [make it] less likely a chance of getting the disease.” said sophomore Kamryn Johnson. “The funding could go towards further research and finding a vaccine. Anything is possible. I would like to think that it would happen.”

All in all, the Ice Bucket Challenge paved the way for people to spread awareness towards a disease that would be looked over if not for social media. It’s one step closer to eliminating one of many diseases that are plaguing our Earth.

“Now that scientists have found the missing link to cure ALS, hopefully more people will be willing to participate in other challenges or events to cure more of the many voiceless diseases where results may not show for many years,” Walthall said.