Author: Carol Bragg
In 2014 millions of people across the globe asked friends and family to pour buckets of iced water over their heads. The reason; to raise money for research into Motor Neurone Disease.
The ice bucket challenge went viral and became one of the most successful charity campaigns in history.
The craze raised about £100 million with such luminaries as Benedict Cumberbatch, Taylor Swift and George W Bush and our own Stephen Breen taking part.
Now, the journal Nature Genetics has published research funded by money that came directly from the Ice Bucket Challenge. The work identified a gene, NEK1, that predisposes people to the neurodegenerative disease, whose sufferers include Stephen Hawking, and the late Ronnie Corbett.
Researchers found that variations in the gene may be responsible for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) – a common form of motor neurone disease – in 3 % of cases, making it one of the most common genetic causes. They hope it will provide a target for gene therapy to treat people with the debilitating disease.
The discovery came after a massive effort to sequence the genomes of 15,000 people with ALS and look for possible genetic determinants.
While it would be true to say that some people who took part in the challenge had little idea what they were raising money for, here at Breens it was a cause close to our hearts.
In May 2015, our colleague, Linda Byrne – who worked at Breens for 21 years -succumbed to the disease after an 18 month fight.
Having seen the devastating effects of motor neurone disease at first hand, the senior partner and his staff were determined to raise as much money as possible to fund vital research. Indeed, when Linda retired in September of 2014, she asked not for a leaving present but for the firm to raise as much money as possible to aid research into the disease that was to claim her life just eight months later.
Breens made the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MDNA) its charity of the year and raised more than £500 over the next 12 months.