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Health: Local ALS Researchers Take Ice Bucket Challenge

By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The Ice Bucket Challenge is going viral across social media and it's led to a surge in donations for Lou Gehrig's Disease research and awareness. 3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl has more on why getting soaked is especially important for one group of local researchers.

Lou Gehrig's Disease, also known as ALS, is a neuro-degenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, eventually leading to paralysis and death. There is no effective treatment. Local researchers are trying to change that, along with joining in on the latest social media trend.

One by one researchers from Thomas Jefferson University's Frances and Joseph Weinberg Unit for ALS Research participated in the Ice Bucket Challenge.

"It was very cold and very terrible, but it's for a good cause," said Kevin McAvoy, Thomas Jefferson University ALS Researcher who participated in the Challenge.

"It was refreshing I would say," said Brian Doyle, another Thomas Jefferson University ALS Researcher.

"It's cold, but it's awesome," said Xinmei Wen, another Thomas Jefferson University ALS Researcher.

It's a simple idea. Take a bucket of ice water, dump it over your head, record it and post the video on social media challenging another group of people to do the same, within 24 hours. Either do it and donate ten dollars to ALS research, or don't do it and donate 100 dollars to the cause.

"Today we've challenged the entire Jefferson Community to rally around us, to bring awareness of ALS and really put the name of ALS out there," said Piera Pasinelli, Co-Director of Jefferson's Weinberg Unit for ALS research.

While it's a fun outdoor challenge, inside the lab is a more serious and important challenge.

"It's very important.  This disease has no cure.  We need to keep doing research to help these patients with this disease, to get towards a cure," said Lauren Rosenblum, a Thomas Jefferson University ALS Researcher.

Researchers are currently trying to get a better understanding of the very complicated and fatal disease, in hopes of developing targeted therapy. The Ice Bucket Challenge will help pay for their research.

"It is an underfunded disease. So if we can do that, and if we can share a little bit of the pain, it is nothing compared to what the patients go through," said Pasinelli.

Over the past two weeks, the ALS Association has received $4 million in donations compared to over $1.1 million during the same time period, last year.

The challenge was started by a person living with ALS to raise awareness.


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