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Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge? It Helped Fund the Discovery of a New ALS Gene

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The viral Ice Bucket Challenge, which swept the internet two years ago while raising money and awareness for the ALS Assocation, has helped fund what the association is calling a “significant gene discovery.”

The “challenge,” in which people dumped cold buckets of water onto their heads and posted the results to Facebook, attracted participants ranging from LeBron James to Bill Gates. The effort collected more than $115 million for ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, during an eight-week period in 2014, of which $77 million was devoted to research.

Using that funding, researchers with Project MinE’s global gene sequencing effort have identified a new ALS gene, NEK1, that is connected to the disease. The discovery will give researchers a potential target as they seek to develop a therapy for the disease, the ALS Association said in a press release Monday. The study that helped fund the gene discovery was the largest-ever study of inherited ALS.

Though most cases of ALS aren’t a result of family history of the disease, the association says “it’s very likely that genetics contribute, directly or indirectly, to a much larger percentage of ALS cases.”

Funding for the project was announced in October of 2014, as the brainchild of Bernard Muller, an entrepreneur who is living with ALS.

“The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge enabled us to secure funding from new sources in new parts of the world,” Muller said in the ALS Association press release.

Now, the ALS Association hopes to raise awareness and money for the disease again with a new campaign dubbed “Every Drop Adds Up.”

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