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College of Pharmacy to accept ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

The Ohio Northern University Raabe College of Pharmacy invites all current students, faculty and staff to answer the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge issued by the University of Findlay College of Pharmacy at WalMart Welcome Back Pharmacy Phest on Thursday, Sept. 4, at 6 p.m.

Participants should wear their white coats and assemble on the lawn near the Alumni and Friends patio on the east side of the pharmacy building. Dr. Boyd Rorabaugh, pharmacy professor and Ada-Liberty Township firefighter, and Mr. Bill Kent, ONU mailroom director and Ada-Liberty Township Fire Department captain, will do the honors via fire hose from atop an Ada-Liberty Township fire engine.

Donations will be accepted in conjunction with the challenge with all proceeds benefiting the ALS Association Northern Ohio Chapter.

Although the challenge itself is comical, it is to raise awareness and research funds for a very serious, debilitating and deadly disease. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a motor neuron disease, meaning that the pathway allowing the brain to control voluntary muscle movement is being damaged.1,2 This damage causes weakness and eventually a loss of movement, although some motor neurons, such as those controlling the eyes and bladder, survive. Most individuals live for an average of three to five years after being diagnosed with ALS, with only 25 percent of patients living to the five year mark or beyond.1

About 30,000 people in the United States have ALS at any given time, with 15 new diagnoses every day.1 The cause of ALS is unknown, although individuals between the ages of 40 and 70 are more likely to develop the disease, with a higher prevalence in men than in women.1,3  There is currently no cure for ALS.1,3,4

Researchers are working on several different treatment options for patients with ALS. One method currently under investigation involves transplanting stem cells into the spinal cord in order to postpone the development of the disease and prolong the patient’s life. Another group of researchers have found that by inhibiting a protein known as Dbrl, they are able to prevent a protein called TDP-43 from sticking together. Many patients that suffer from ALS are found to have bunches (or groupings) of mutated TDP-43 massed together on and around motor neurons, causing them to die. Therefore, by keeping the TDP-43 protein from sticking together, the researchers are able to prevent cell death that worsens ALS symptoms.5 They are hoping to further test their results in small animals, such as rodents.4 Still, other research groups are working to determine the differences between neurons of the eye muscle that continue to work and neurons that are affected and killed by the presence of ALS. They hope that by determining the differences, a method of protection can be developed to make motor neurons more resistant to death.6

Although this research is exciting, there is still a lot of work that must be done before these potential treatment plans would be ready to be tested in humans. Social media initiatives such as the Ice Bucket Challenge have helped to increase awareness and to fund research, but the battle is ongoing.  We hope to have you come out and enjoy our soaking, but more importantly, we hope you can contribute in whatever way you can to help with the research effort for this devastating disease.

1.    ALS Association [Internet]. Washington (DC): The ALS Association; c 2010. Who Gets ALS?; [updated 2011 Feb; cited 2014 Sep 2]; [about 1 screen]. available from:           
2.    Mehta P, Antao V, Kaye W, Sanchez M, Williamson D, Bryan L, Muravov O, Horton K. Prevalence of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-United States, 2010-2011. MMWR. 2014 July 25; 7: 1-2.
3.    National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Fact Sheet. June 2013. [cited 2014 Sep 2]. available from:
4.    Yerkovich S. Hope for ALS. PN, 2013 Mar; 67 (3): 24-5.
5.    Eskenazi K. Two genes that cause familial ALS shown to work together. Columbia University Medical Center News Release. [cited 2014 Sep 2] available from:
6.    Project ALS. 5 in 3:An aggressive strategy to identify ALS therapies. [cited 2014 Sep 2]