#ALSIceBucketChallenge Leads to a Groundbreaking Discovery
By Michael Britton
Aug 28, 2015
Updated Nov 17, 2023
5 min read
Take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge for example. Some may have thought it was just an icy shower, but the donations from that campaign funded research that recently made a groundbreaking discovery about the disease. In this case, a hashtag led to a new understanding of ALS and how to treat it.
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or "Lou Gehrig's disease,” is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. The disease causes the nerve cells to gradually breakdown and die, leading to the deterioration of motor skills and eventually death. Every day, an average of 15 people are newly diagnosed with ALS — more than 5,600 people per year.
According to the ALS Association, the ice bucket challenge raised over $100 million in 30 days as compared to $2.8 million raised during the same period of the previous year. Of those donations, 67 percent went to researching the disease.
With these funds, a team of researchers including Jonathan Ling at Johns Hopkins discovered TDP-43, a protein in cells found in 97 percent of all ALS patients. Thanks to the donations, they have been able to study TDP-43 and develop a new stem cell therapy. The therapy is currently being tested with promising results in eliminating the protein found in ALS.
In a recent Reddit AMA, Ling was adamant about how helpful the Ice Bucket Challenge was to funding the breakthrough research for ALS. Ling wrote, "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."
Because of the success of the challenge and the resulting medical breakthrough, the ALS Association has decided to bring back the #ALSIceBucketChallenge every August until there is a cure.
At Intermountain Healthcare, we are similarly committed to investing in patient-centered research. Currently, there are more than 1,400 open studies in the Intermountain Healthcare system that will directly affect patient care and outcomes.
As part of Intermountain’s commitment to research, the Intermountain Research and Medical Foundation promotes the highest quality of healthcare for our community by funding medical research, education, technology, equipment, facility improvements, and charitable assistance throughout the greater Salt Lake area.
To learn more about research at Intermountain and how we are helping people live the healthiest lives possible, visit www.intermountainresearch.org.