Ice Bucket Challenge credited for ALS research breakthrough

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ABC7's Phillip Palmer was one of many thousands of people who participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge, which raised money that helped contribute to a new development in ALS research. (KABC)

Researchers have announced a new breakthrough in the fight against ALS, and are thanking the Ice Bucket Challenge for boosting their efforts.

Under the Ice Bucket Challenge, which became a viral video phenomenon in 2014, a person would dump a bucket of ice water on their head and post the video to promote awareness of ALS and encourage donations.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, involves a progressive loss of voluntary muscle control, causing difficulty speaking and breathing and often leading to death within three to four years of its onset.

Researchers have now identified a gene that contributes to the disease. Discovery of the NEK1 gene's link to the disease can provide another potential target for development of new therapy, bringing scientists a step closer to treating the neurological disorder.

The Ice Bucket Challenge raised $115 million for the ALS Association. Figures from the group show $1 million of that helped fund a global effort to help find genetic drivers of the condition called Project MinE.

The ALS Association says a paper published this week in the journal Nature Genetics reveals Project MinE researchers have identified the NEK1 gene's connection to ALS. It says understanding the gene's role will help in developing new target therapy for ALS.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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