P.K Subban has done it. So has Mike Holmes. And Toronto’s infamous Mayor Rob Ford. Have you poured a bucket of ice water over your head to raise awareness — and funds — about ALS?
The social media-driven phenomenon has been both celebrated for its ingenuousness and criticized as “slacktvism” — most notably by Maclean’s Scott Gilmore, who called it “narcissistically self-promoting.”
But there is no denying its popularity. According to ALS Canada, thousands of Canadians have taken the challenge this summer and raised in the neighbourhood of $10 million dollars to fight the devastating disease. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is an incurable progressive disorder that attacks motor neurons, the nerve cells that transmit electrical signals from our brain and spinal cord to our muscles.
Currently, there is no cure for ALS and researchers around the world are trying to find ways to treat it.
One of the most exciting recent research contributions involves induced pluripotent stem cells or iPS cells,. These are created by reprogramming adult cells from patients into stem cells. These can then be turned into patient-specific therapeutic cells. Researchers are using iPS technology to make cell lines of motor neurons and support cells, and these are proving to be invaluable for standardizing laboratory protocols, decoding the mechanisms of ALS, studying the different disease types, and testing and developing new drugs. To find out more, click here.