It was not that long ago that everyone who was anyone was dumping ice water all over themselves. Sounds crazy, but hey it was for a good cause. The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge in 2014 was one of the greatest fund-raising events science has ever seen. Here are the results. With over $115 million raised in 2014 and $220 million in total raised to help find the cure for ALS. One has to wonder how much impact this actually had. Well to understand that we first need to understand the basics of what ALS is.
ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. It is a degenerative disease in the motor neurons. Motor neurons are in charge of telling your body to move. This makes them very important. If you lose your motor neurons you do not just lose you ability to move your arms and legs but also more important things like the ability to breath and to swallow. This is why ALS is such a dangerous disease to have because most individuals die within 2 years of diagnosis due to issues with their lungs.
In the neurons what happens is not always known. The research suggests that ALS is due to oxidation stress. As we go about our day-to-day lives our bodies are constantly doing chemistry. Thousands of tiny chemical reactions are responsible for keeping us alive. Some of these reactions create products that are very reactive but serve no purpose in the body, these are oxidative species and it they are not dealt with by the cell they can cause damage to cell structures or even DNA itself. When DNA gets too damaged it can no longer express the genes we need to live. This is what is happening in ALS the oxidative stress causes DNA damage that then leads to more oxidative species being made and the cycle continues until the motor neurons die.
This leads to a lot of questions about ALS. What starts the cycle is it the oxidative stress causes DNA damage or could it be that DNA gets damaged and then causes more oxidative stress? Is there any way to diagnose ALS early? If we can diagnose early can we stop it? How do we stop oxidative stress? Well we have all this money raised by the ice bucket challenge so we will be able to answer all the questions we have. Right?
No. Science is complicated and expensive. New research and medicine take time. However we have been able to find some new things. Two of the labs funded by the ice bucket challenge have independently identified a gene that is linked to developing ALS. So it is possible that in the near future people could get tested for this gene and know if they are likely to get ALS. But we still don’t have a cure. More research needs to be done.
Great. We will just hold an ice bucket challenge every year so we have enough money to fund all of the needed research. Then we will be sure to find the cure. Well, the amazing thing is that the ice bucket challenge even worked the first time. It was so popular and spread across the internet so fast there was no way to plan it. It just happened naturally. This poses a problem for the ice bucket challenge to be anything but a one time deal. It is not really a sustainable way to fund scientific research. However one way to insure steady funding for scientific research is through federal research grants.
YOU can help with this by contacting your representatives and letting them know how important it is that scientific research be funded. With the help of stable funding and and things like the ice bucket challenge maybe we can see the end of ALS sometime in the future. If you want to do more NOW visit als.org.