People dumping buckets of water over their heads (© AP Images)
Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, right center, and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, third from left, participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge with its inspiration Pete Frates, seated in center, at the State House in Boston. (© AP Images)

Remember the “Ice Bucket Challenge”? It was a charity stunt to raise money for research on ALS, a dreaded, paralytic disease that affects the brain and spinal cord.

Millions of people in the United States, including celebrities, athletes, Bill Gates and former President George W. Bush, videotaped themselves pouring buckets of ice water over their heads and challenging friends to do likewise and donate to the ALS Association.

In a matter of weeks, the nonprofit group raised $115 million and inspired ice bucket challenges in other countries too.

Money doesn’t equal a cure, but it does fund research that in time can help find one. Already there’s been a possible first step. The ALS Association has announced that money raised by the challenge led to the discovery of a gene called NEK1, which is partly responsible for the disease.

The researchers, representing 11 countries, found the gene in ALS patients whose parents also suffered from the disease. It provides scientists with another potential target for finding ways to treat ALS, which leads to total paralysis and death, usually within five years.

ALS is short for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and is sometimes called Lou Gehrig’s disease, after the New York Yankees baseball star who died from it in 1941.