Medical School led discovery of ALS gene funded by Ice Bucket Challenge
- Medical School
The discovery of an ALS gene by UMass Medical School scientist John Landers, PhD, and a large, international research team, funded by the viral Ice Bucket Challenge campaign, is garnering headlines around the globe.
“Global collaboration among scientists, which was really made possible by ALS Ice Bucket Challenge donations, led to this important discovery,” said Dr. Landers, professor of neurology, in a July 27 Washington Post article, “The ALS ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ is working.” “It is a prime example of the success that can come from the combined efforts of so many people, all dedicated to finding the causes of ALS. This kind of collaborative study is, more and more, where the field is headed.”
The research led by Landers and Jan Veldink, PhD, at University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands, was supported by The ALS Association through Project MinE, an international collaboration for gene discovery in ALS.
Made possible with funds raised by the 2014 Ice Bucket Challenge social media campaign, the $1 million grant from the ALS Association allowed Landers to bring an international effort to identify all the genes that cause both familial and sporadic ALS.
The team found variations in NEK1, a gene with multiple functions in neurons, present in approximately 3 percent of all cases of both sporadic and familial ALS in North America and Europe, making it one of the most common genetic causes of the disease. The findings were published in Nature Geneticson July 25, marking the two-year anniversary of the Ice Bucket Challenge, in which many members of the UMass Medical School and UMass Memorial Health Care community participated.
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