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1 year later, the Ice Bucket Challenge funds this breakthrough in ALS research.

Money raised by the viral campaign is making a big difference.

1 year later, the Ice Bucket Challenge funds this breakthrough in ALS research.

Remember the Ice Bucket Challenge?

Of course you do. It was that viral video campaign that took off last summer where you'd log into Facebook and see a steady stream of your friends dumping water on themselves in the name of awareness and research for the ALS Association.


For science! Brrrrrr. Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images.

Some brushed the movement off as an example of "slacktivism," but it actually helped raise more than $100 million. When you compare it to the $2.8 million raised by the organization during the same period a year earlier, it's clear that the Ice Bucket challenge paid off.

ALS, also known as amyotrophic laterals sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's Disease, affects an estimated 30,000 living people at any given time.

It's a disorder that affects nerve and muscle function. Just 20% of those with the disease will live more than five years following diagnosis. It's brutal.

But there's good news — due, in part, to the money raised by the Ice Bucket Challenge.

While that man doesn't seem to be having such a great time, I really need to find out what kind of seemingly IBC-proof makeup the woman on the left is using. Photo by Scott Barbour/Getty Images.

During a reddit "Ask Me Anything" session, ALS researcher Jonathan Ling unveiled a major breakthrough in his work.

Ling wanted to do an "Ask Me Anything" to debunk some of the negative things being said by skeptics about the success of the Ice Bucket Challenge.

"I mainly wanted to do this ["Ask Me Anything"] because I remember reading a lot of stories about people complaining that the ice bucket challenge was a waste and that scientists weren't using the money to do research, etc. I assure you that this is absolutely false," Ling writes.

"All of your donations have been amazingly helpful and we have been working tirelessly to find a cure. With the amount of money that the ice bucket challenge raised, I feel that there's a lot of hope and optimism now for real, meaningful therapies."

So what's the big breakthrough? Well, it has to do with protein — or rather, one specific protein.

Ling's research focuses on TDP-43, a protein in cells that's he's been able to link to ALS.

Ling breaks down the purpose of TDP-43 with an analogy involving a library that's easy for us non-scientist types to understand:

"DNA is located in the nucleus of a cell. You can think of a nucleus as a library except that instead of having books neatly lined up on shelves, the books in a nucleus have all of their pages ripped out and thrown around randomly.

To sort through this mess, the cell has great librarians that go around collecting all these pages, collating them and neatly binding them together as books. These librarians then ship these 'books' out of the nucleus so that other workers in the cell can do their jobs. Think of these books as instruction manuals.

TDP-43 is a very special type of librarian. TDP-43's job is to ensure that nucleus librarians don't accidentally make a mistake and put a random nonsense page (usually filled with gibberish) into the books that they ship out. If one of these nonsense pages makes it into an 'instruction manual,' the workers in the cell get really confused and mess things up. For terminology, we call these nonsense pages 'cryptic exons.'"



His team found that in 97% of ALS cases, TDP-43 wasn't doing its job. And now that they know this, they've been able to begin work on new therapies to do TDP-43's job for it. If successful, he believes this can slow down the progression of the disease.

How cool is that?

Baseball Hall-of-Famer Lou Gehrig became the face of ALS after he tearfully retired from baseball upon diagnosis. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

But what about the other 3%? Well, we don't have all the answers just yet.

One redditor asked that question, and essentially, it boils down to the fact that ALS is still pretty unpredictable. While TDP-43 may play a large part in the disease's progression, it's not the whole picture. For those individuals for whom ALS runs in the family, that seems to be linked to a gene called SOD1, and not TDP-43.

That's why research needs to continue.

"When you look at ALS from a genetics perspective, about 10% of the cases are called 'familial', [that is], lots of people in the family have ALS and it seems to be passed down. The other 90% of ALS appears to occur completely by unfortunate chance and we call that 'sporadic.'

As researchers, we look to the genetics for clues to study the disease. One of the first family-linked genes discovered was a gene called SOD1 that is found in about 30% of familial cases. But it's starting to seem like SOD1 is an outlier because TDP-43 doesn't seem to be messed up. Instead, SOD1 seems to clump together due to the mutation. We get the 3% because 30% of 10% familial is 3%." — Ling

But yeah, this is pretty neat, exciting stuff!

Ling hopes to have therapies based on his research making their way to clinical trials within the next two-three years.

And from there, who knows? Maybe this is the breakthrough that sets up the next big step in finding a cure for this absolutely ruthless disorder. 76 years after it first entered the public consciousness with Lou Gehrig's emotional farewell speech, a cure feels closer than ever before.

Last year, we shared a video by Anthony Carbajal, a man who had been recently diagnosed with ALS.

ALS runs in Carbajal's family. His grandmother, his mother, and he have all been diagnosed with the disorder. His Ice Bucket Challenge video was powerful because it put a face to the research and the desperation for a cure.


GIF via Anthony Carbajal.

The research made possible by the Ice Bucket Challenge gives hope to people like Anthony. It's just so important.

Saying that 30,000 people live with ALS doesn't mean a whole lot until you see the pain it causes those living with it and watching their loved ones do battle. When you watch Anthony's video, his tears welling up in his eyes, it's clear just how much the world needed something like the Ice Bucket Challenge to fund the research we need to put an end to ALS once and for all.

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Judy Vaughan has spent most of her life helping other women, first as the director of House of Ruth, a safe haven for homeless families in East Los Angeles, and later as the Project Coordinator for Women for Guatemala, a solidarity organization committed to raising awareness about human rights abuses.

But in 1996, she decided to take things a step further. A house became available in the mid-Wilshire area of Los Angeles and she was offered the opportunity to use it to help other women and children. So, in partnership with a group of 13 people who she knew from her years of activism, she decided to make it a transitional residence program for homeless women and their children. They called the program Alexandria House.

"I had learned from House of Ruth that families who are homeless are often isolated from the surrounding community," Judy says. "So we decided that as part of our mission, we would also be a neighborhood center and offer a number of resources and programs, including an after-school program and ESL classes."

She also decided that, unlike many other shelters in Los Angeles, she would accept mothers with their teenage boys.

"There are very few in Los Angeles [that do] due to what are considered liability issues," Judy explains. "Given the fact that there are (conservatively) 56,000 homeless people and only about 11,000 shelter beds on any one night, agencies can be selective on who they take."

Their Board of Directors had already determined that they should take families that would have difficulties finding a place. Some of these challenges include families with more than two children, immigrant families without legal documents, moms who are pregnant with other small children, families with a member who has a disability [and] families with service dogs.

"Being separated from your son or sons, especially in the early teen years, just adds to the stress that moms who are unhoused are already experiencing," Judy says.

"We were determined to offer women with teenage boys another choice."

Courtesy of Judy Vaughan

Alexandria House also doesn't kick boys out when they turn 18. For example, Judy says they currently have a mom with two daughters (21 and 2) and a son who just turned 18. The family had struggled to find a shelter that would take them all together, and once they found Alexandria House, they worried the boy would be kicked out on his 18th birthday. But, says Judy, "we were not going to ask him to leave because of his age."

Homelessness is a big issue in Los Angeles. "[It] is considered the homeless capital of the United States," Judy says. "The numbers have not changed significantly since 1984 when I was working at the House of Ruth." The COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the problem. According to Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), over 66,000 people in the greater Los Angeles area were experiencing homelessness in 2020, representing a rise of 12.7% compared with the year before.

Each woman who comes to Alexandria House has her own unique story, but some common reasons for ending up homeless include fleeing from a domestic violence or human trafficking situation, aging out of foster care and having no place to go, being priced out of an apartment, losing a job, or experiencing a family emergency with no 'cushion' to pay the rent.

"Homelessness is not a definition; it is a situation that a person finds themselves in, and in fact, it can happen to almost anyone. There are many practices and policies that make it almost impossible to break out of poverty and move out of homelessness."

And that's why Alexandria House exists: to help them move out of it. How long that takes depends on the woman, but according to Judy, families stay an average of 10 months. During that time, the women meet with support staff to identify needs and goals and put a plan of action in place.

A number of services are provided, including free childcare, programs and mentoring for school-age children, free mental health counseling, financial literacy classes and a savings program. They have also started Step Up Sisterhood LA, an entrepreneurial program to support women's dreams of starting their own businesses. "We serve as a support system for as long as a family would like," Judy says, even after they have moved on.

And so far, the program is a resounding success.

92 percent of the 200 families who stayed at Alexandria House have found financial stability and permanent housing — not becoming homeless again.

Since founding Alexandria House 25 years ago, Judy has never lost sight of her mission to join with others and create a vision of a more just society and community. That is why she is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year — and the donation she receives as a nominee will go to Alexandria House and will help grow the new Start-up Sisterhood LA program.

"Alexandria House is such an important part of my life," says Judy. "It has been amazing to watch the children grow up and the moms recreate their lives for themselves and for their families. I have witnessed resiliency, courage, and heroic acts of generosity."

When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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