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Ice bucket challenge heats up ALS research

The prognosis for serious illnesses can change dramatically over time as research and technology improve. What may be a disabling, life-threatening condition today could ultimately be treatable in the near future with ongoing studies and research.

For instance, you may be aware of (and even participated in) the ice bucket challenge that made viral waves a couple years ago. As part of fundraising efforts by the ALS Association, social media users were challenged to donate money and/or dump ice water over themselves. About $115 million was raised through this campaign, and it appears to have made a difference.

According to recent reports, an exciting discovery has been made, thanks in large part to the grants that were made possible by the ice bucket challenge. The discovery is the identification of a gene that apparently has a connection to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

The donations have also helped launch new drug therapies and development in order to help people suffering from ALS by extending their lives and helping to treat symptoms.

There is no cure for ALS, but the ongoing research and development made possible through grants and donations can dramatically improve the lives of the people suffering with this neurodegenerative disorder by helping doctors understand it better.

Unfortunately, at this point, the illness is still catastrophic and fatal, and most people die within five years of diagnosis. The recent genetic discovery will hopefully lead to other advancements that impact and improve treatment over time. 

Severe, rapidly progressing illnesses like ALS can change a person's life in the blink of an eye. While financial support may be the last thing on your mind at such a difficult time, you should be aware that you may very well qualify for government benefits to help you cover the expense of medical care and the costs of living when you are no longer able to work. Discussing your options with an attorney can prove to be a wise decision.

Hopefully, donations and awareness campaigns will mean that these conditions will not be so devastating in the future. For now, however, patients and their families should know their options and take advantage of any support available.

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