Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge of 2014? It was a viral sensation, designed to raise awareness of ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and donations to the ALS Association. Seeing people dump buckets of ice over their heads was fun, but awareness campaigns often don’t lead to significant donations. This one did, to the tune of $115 million in a six week period! The association assigned funds raised by the Ice Bucket Challenge to Project MinE, an effort to sequence the genes of 15,000 people, which required the participation of scientists all over the world. That research has identified a new gene that contributes to ALS.
According to a paper published today in Nature Genetics, researchers part of Project MinE’s global gene sequencing effort, funded by The ALS Association through ALS Ice Bucket Challenge donations, have identified a new ALS gene, NEK1, which now ranks among the most common genes that contribute to the disease, providing scientists with another potential target for therapy development. This was the largest-ever study of familial (inherited) ALS, involved contributions from over 80 researchers in 11 countries, and was led by John Landers, Ph.D., of University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Mass. and Jan Veldink, Ph.D., of University Medical Center Utrecht, in The Netherlands.