Bucket lift; PS76m ICE CHALLENGE FUNDS BREAKTHROUGH FOR MOTOR NEURONE.
Byline: ANDREW GREGORY firstname.lastname@example.org
THE millions of pounds raised by the Ice Bucket Challenge have led to an important breakthrough in the fight against motor neurone disease.
A campaign on social media encouraged people to throw a bucket of iced water over their heads in exchange for donations from friends, family and work pals.
Scots celebrities including actor James McAvoy, dance star Calvin Harris and Susan Boyle all took part. Even the then deputy first minister Nicola Sturgeon got in on the act.
Former Rangers star Fernando Ricksen, who was diagnosed with the disease in 2013, also braved a freezing bucket of water, as did Ibrox legend Ally McCoist.
Researchers given cash by the ALS Association's campaign have discovered a gene linked to motor neurone disease.
The NEK1 gene could help scientists develop new treatments for patients with motor neurone disease - also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Motor neurone disease is a condition that progressively damages parts of the nervous system. This leads to muscle weakness, often with visible wasting.
There are about 5000 people living with the condition in the UK at any one time.
The ALS Association raised around PS80million and some of the cash went to Project MinE. The international study aims to sequence the genomes of at least 15,000 people with ALS.
Project leader Dr John Landers said: "Global collaboration among scientists, which was really made possible by ALS Ice Bucket Challenge donations, led to this important discovery.
"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 study was the biggest examination of ALS, involving contributions from 80 researchers in 11 countries.
Bernard Muller, founder of Project MinE and and sufferer, added: "The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge enabled us to secure funding from new sources in new parts of the world."
Scottish MND patient and campaigner Gordon Aikman was diagnosed with MND in 2014 and has campaigned for more support for research into the condition.
He said: "I think this development pours ice-cold water over any claims the ice bucket challenge was just a silly stunt."
Craig Stockton, chief executive of MND Scotland, said the charity were "thrilled" by the research breakthrough.
He said: "The discovery of this new gene helps to fill in another piece of the jigsaw that is MND.
"While further research is needed to understand what part the NEK1 gene plays in the development of MND, it will provide scientists with an important target for developing treatments."
UP FOR THE CHALLENGE Sturgeon gets her soaking