The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, co-founded by Irish America Hall of Fame inductee Pat Quinn and re-launched this past August, is being credited by researchers at Johns Hopkins University for recent breakthroughs in research for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Jonathan Ling, Olga Pletnikova, Juan Troncoso, and Philip Wong of Johns Hopkins University recently published their findings in the journal Science, where they explain the function of TDP-43, a protein connected to ALS. TDP-43 is supposed to prevent unwanted genetic material from being used by nerve cells to make proteins. In patients with ALS, TDP-43 clumps together in the cells, ultimately preventing the protein from doing its job. Such a scenario leads to the death of brain and spinal cord cells.
“TDP-43 doesn’t do its job in 97% of all ALS cases,” Ling explained in a recent Ask Me Anything thread on Reddit.com. “Scientists didn’t really know its function – now we do. We also show that it’s something that can be fixed!”
Philip Wong, the Johns Hopkins professor who led the research team told the Washington Post that without the Ice Bucket Challenge “we wouldn’t have been able to come out with the studies as quickly as we did.”
Ling also praised the challenge in his Reddit thread by noting, “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….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. After all, the best medicines come from a full understanding of a disease, and without the financial stability to do high risk, high reward research, none of this would be possible!” ♦