One year after everyone in the world – from Bill Gates to Mark Zuckerberg – was pouring buckets of ice water over their heads, there’s some very encouraging evidence that the social media fad actually made some valuable contributions to ALS research.
A recent paper published by a team from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine outlined a significant leap forward in understanding one of the major mysteries of ALS. The discovery is incredibly complex – “we found that TDP-43 repressed the splicing of nonconserved cryptic exons, maintaining intron integrity. When TDP-43 was depleted from mouse embryonic stem cells, these cryptic exons were spliced into messenger RNAs, often disrupting their translation and promoting nonsense-mediated decay…” – so we’ll leave this here if you can keep up.
As the paper’s co-author Jonathan Ling explained in a Reddit AMA recently, the breakthrough can be largely attributed to the outpouring of interest, and money, facilitated by the ice bucket challenge.
“I mainly wanted to do this AMA because I remember reading a lot of stories about people complaining that the ice bucket challenge was a waste and that scientists weren’t using the money to do research, etc. I assure you that this is absolutely false,” says Ling.
“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.”
The ALS association received $100 million in funding last summer, compared to just $3 million the summer before.
It’s great to see that so-called online slactivism can in fact produce real results offline, but it’s equally important to remember the Ice Bucket Challenge’s popularity is quite the anomaly when you consider how many similar campaigns have failed.
So yeah, please stop putting cans between your boobs.