ALS Gene Discovery

December 28, 2016
ALS Gene Discovery

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis became popular after Lou Gehrig’s battle with the disease. ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that leads to the gradual weakening of muscles through the attack of motor neurons. Unfortunately there is no cure for ALS. Pete Frates, a student at Boston College helped start the Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness for ASL, as he himself has been diagnosed with it. A person is challenged to dump iced water on their head and then has to tag 10 friends in their social media video to perform the same stunt, and if they refuse, they donate money to the ALS Foundation. After the Ice Bucket Challenge was trending, many celebrities even joined the cause. All of this attention and funding lead researchers to find a gene that carries genetic material for ALS.

The discovery of this gene is common in 3% of cases. Josh Elliott of, wrote about this discovery in his article, “Ice Bucket Challenge Funds ALS Gene Breakthrough.” This gene is called NEK1.  According to Elliott, researchers can test a person to see if they carry the gene, however, “the results are difficult to interpret at this point, even if NEK1 is present.” Researchers are going to have a long road ahead of them in not only figuring out why the disease happens, but a possible mode of prevention, protection, and even treatment. Perhaps the world needs a few more Ice Bucket Challenges to keep the awareness and funding flowing.



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