In those posts, I questioned the campaign, wondering if it was going to be more about the means than the ends. That is, in the final tally, was it really more about social media and ice water than it was about making a difference in ALS research?
In my defense, I believe it’s entirely appropriate to ask the question. After all, there has been no shortage of organizations exploiting both the bad luck and the goodwill of people in order to line their own pockets.
I didn’t ACCUSE the creators of this campaign of exploitation, only wondered if anyone asked the tough questions.
I callz ’em like I seez em.
I have to follow-up with heartening news.
I WAS (maybe, kinda, a little bit) WRONG. From the Washington Post:
[O]ne year and more than $220 million in donations later, scientists at Johns Hopkins are claiming a major breakthrough in ALS research and are partly crediting the success to the massive influx of public interest.
“Without it, we wouldn’t have been able to come out with the studies as quickly as we did,” said Philip Wong, a professor at Johns Hopkins who led the research team. “The funding from the ice bucket is just a component of the whole — in part, it facilitated our effort.”
Wong and his team have been studying ALS for about a decade, but as Jonathan Ling, another researcher at Johns Hopkins, said in an “Ask Me Anything” thread on Reddit, the millions of dollars brought into the field has given researchers the financial stability to pursue “high risk, high reward” experiments.
“The money came at a critical time when we needed it,” Wong said.
The discovery revolves around a specific protein in the brain.
Now, because you head out for some celebratory debauchery in the street, my cautious self has another word to the wise. There is a long way to go before this “breakthrough” will benefit humans. As I once heard Susan Love say, we’ve cured breast cancer in lots of mice. That doesn’t necessarily translate into human cures because humans aren’t mice.
However, this is big news, and it makes my cold, dead heart a little less icy to know that something fun can actually yield serious results.