Thursday, 3 September 2015

IBC One Year Later

This weekend is the unofficial end of summer in Canada; it's arrived a few days early here in Calgary. This morning's sunshine has been replaced by a rapid plummet in temperature, grey clouds, rain, lightening, and thunder near enough to rattle the windows of my apartment. August is gone.

Last year was the August of the Ice Bucket Challenge, that organic, viral sensation which swept the globe, raising millions for ALS research, raising awareness of this illness, and, along the way, raising the ire of the naysayers, those who would rationalize away something as emotional, and fun, as the Ice Bucket Challenge. Those inside the ALS community tried to replicate it again this year, with a slogan of "Every August Until A Cure". It didn't have the same affect; it's hard to replicated that one of a kind contagion.

This is not to say that the Ice Bucket Challenge failed; quite the reverse. The money raised has already lead to important breakthroughs in research, extensive new drug trials, and a massive increase in awareness around ALS. Perhaps one of the most significant advances has been the increasing understanding of the role of the protein  TDP-43 within the context of how it allows damaged neurons to repair themselves, a part of the broken process which underlies not only ALS but many other neurological illnesses.

It has long been understood that TDP-43 had something to do with failed neurons. There are studies going back nearly a decade which discuss its potential importance. The problem has been money; there wasn't enough to fund ongoing, focused research in this area. Then the Ice Bucket Challenge came along. Prosaically, a year after that money was raised, we have a major advance in understanding the relationship of TDP-43 to neuron repair, an advance which may lead to treatments not just for ALS, but for Alzheimer's, MS, and a host of other neurological disorders.

This doesn't mean something will happen right away. There will be no magic cure tomorrow. Right now, fixing the TDP-43 protein only works in mice, and what works in mice often doesn't work in people. What it does means is that there is now enough money in the pot to advance this research, something which was missing in the past. It may not be on time for me, but one day ALS and all kinds of neurological diseases will be not just treatable, but curable. That's worth a bucket of ice over my head.

1 comment:

  1. You broke down that advancement beautifully. Now, I have a better understanding. Thank you Richard.