Splash! Freezing cold water soaks you. Yes, I'm talking about the ALS ice bucket challenge that is trending all over social media right now. The idea is that people challenge their friends, who then have to either donate to the ALS Association, or douse themselves in a bucket of ice water.
ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. It is a neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, which progressively leads to loss of muscle control and eventually to paralysis. This is especially concerning when it reaches the upper spinal cord, as it can cause breathing problems. Eventually, the degenerating of the neurons leads to death. There is no cure for ALS, but doctors can try to slow it down. The ALS Association is researching ALS to develop treatments for it.
One promising treatment for ALS is cellular therapy that involves transplanting stem cells or stimulating resident stem cells. This is an exciting breakthrough because it has the potential to possibly slow or stop the onset of ALS. The research that the ALS Association is doing is groundbreaking and wonderful.
The good news is that currently, the ALS Association is funding only one study using embryonic stem cells, and it is in its final stages. Most of their research is completely ethical. Hopefully, they will continue to pursue the more ethical approach of using adult stem cells in the future. In the meantime, feel free to participate in the ice bucket challenge and raise awareness for ALS; however, think about donating to a different organization. A safe alternative would be the John Paul II Medical Research Institute, which is dedicated to ethical research. Another alternative could be Team Gleason, which does not conduct research, but rather is dedicated to serving actual patients and raising awareness.
Of course, you can also donate to a charity that is unrelated to ALS as well.
Nonetheless, keep doing the Ice Bucket Challenge! It is spreading awareness for a disease that many did not know about until recently and is showing support for all those suffering from it.