Why I took the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Like thousands of individuals around the world, I took the Ice Bucket Challenge last week.

You might wonder why I took the challenge given that my focus at the National MS Society is to find solutions for people with multiple sclerosis. MS is a completely different disease, after all. 

I had two reasons for taking the challenge – One personal and one scientific. 

The personal reason is that I was challenged by my friend and blogger, Trevis Gleason (check out his challenge video here). Once Trevis laid down the challenge, I knew it was just a matter of time before I was getting wet and donating to the ALS Association (my charity of choice for this campaign).

The scientific reason is that I want to support ALS research because of the solutions it could bring for both ALS and MS. Yes, that’s right, there is indeed a connection between ALS and MS, beyond the fact that the two diseases affect the brain. 

It turns out that in both MS and ALS, oligodendrocytes – the cells responsible for producing myelin – are damaged.  While the way these cells are damaged differs in ALS and MS, both diseases share a common problem, and finding solutions to this is the focus of about a third of the Society’s research portfolio, including a collaborative research project we’re funding at Johns Hopkins University. 

With Society funding, MS researchers, Drs. Peter Calabresi and Katherine Whartenby have teamed up with ALS researchers, Drs. Dwight Bergles and Jeffrey Rothstein, to bring their respective expertise to understand how oligodendrocytes are damaged in ALS and MS, and to use this information to find treatments that can prevent this damage and pave the way for nervous system repair. Read more about efforts to repair the nervous system.

This collaboration is just one example of how researchers across the world are working together to find solutions for people with MS and other brain diseases. That’s why I took the challenge, and that’s why I challenge National MS Society volunteers, Joe Piper and John Bjornson and international colleagues Dr. Karen Lee (MS Society of Canada), and Luke Thomas (MS International Federation)! You can check out my video here, and see my friend Trevis do the honors.

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Timothy

Timothy Coetzee, PhD

Dr. Timothy Coetzee, National MS Society Chief Advocacy, Services and Research Officer, has been a leader in the pursuit of innovative ways to move us closer to a world free of MS since receiving his PhD in microbiology and immunology in 1993. 

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    17 Comments

  • Gail   Sep 9, 2014 10:18 AM
    This was my thought too...It may lead to more information and research into a possible cure for MS as well as ALS..I pray it does!!
  • Gail   Sep 9, 2014 10:19 AM
    This was my thought too...It may lead to more information and research into a possible cure for MS as well as ALS..I pray it does!!
  • Gail   Sep 9, 2014 10:19 AM
    This was my thought too...It may lead to more information and research into a possible cure for MS as well as ALS..I pray it does!!
  • Patti   Sep 9, 2014 10:23 AM
    my husband and I were challenged by our grandsonto do the ALS ice bucket challenge. At hat time my husband, who suffers from MS, asked if there was a way to combine the research for the two. I am so happy to see that there is a possibility.
  • Patti   Sep 9, 2014 10:24 AM
    my husband and I were challenged by our grandsonto do the ALS ice bucket challenge. At hat time my husband, who suffers from MS, asked if there was a way to combine the research for the two. I am so happy to see that there is a possibility.
  • Patti   Sep 9, 2014 10:24 AM
    my husband and I were challenged by our grandsonto do the ALS ice bucket challenge. At hat time my husband, who suffers from MS, asked if there was a way to combine the research for the two. I am so happy to see that there is a possibility.
  • Laura K   Sep 9, 2014 11:59 AM
    Thanks for sharing that insight on the research. I would also add that just because we have MS it doesn't mean we shut out the rest of the world and ignore their needs. How many of us have thought at one time or another "it could be worse - at least I don't have ALS". I know I have and I am thrilled to see the attention and outpouring of support, especially for another neurological disorder.
  • Laura K   Sep 9, 2014 12:01 PM
    Thanks for sharing that insight on the research. I would also add that just because we have MS it doesn't mean we shut out the rest of the world and ignore their needs. How many of us have thought at one time or another "it could be worse - at least I don't have ALS". I know I have and I am thrilled to see the attention and outpouring of support, especially for another neurological disorder.
  • Sonia   Sep 9, 2014 1:01 PM
    I'm happy to see that you have taken the ALS challenge and thankful for your daily work at the MS connection. I myself do not have multiple sclerosis, although my mother has it and I have friends and other family members that have MS so I would really love to see the research go further and find a cure for those who still have the chance to make that difference.
  • Sonia   Sep 9, 2014 1:01 PM
    I'm happy to see that you have taken the ALS challenge and thankful for your daily work at the MS connection. I myself do not have multiple sclerosis, although my mother has it and I have friends and other family members that have MS so I would really love to see the research go further and find a cure for those who still have the chance to make that difference.
  • Sonia   Sep 9, 2014 1:01 PM
    I'm happy to see that you have taken the ALS challenge and thankful for your daily work at the MS connection. I myself do not have multiple sclerosis, although my mother has it and I have friends and other family members that have MS so I would really love to see the research go further and find a cure for those who still have the chance to make that difference.
  • Sonia Ramos   Sep 9, 2014 1:03 PM
    I'm happy to see that you have taken the ALS challenge and thankful for your daily work at the MS connection. I myself do not have multiple sclerosis, although my mother has it and I have friends and other family members that have MS so I would really love to see the research go further and find a cure for those who still have the chance to make that difference.
  • Sonia Ramos   Sep 9, 2014 1:05 PM
    I'm happy to see that you have taken the ALS challenge and thankful for your daily work at the MS connection. I myself do not have multiple sclerosis, although my mother has it and I have friends and other family members that have MS so I would really love to see the research go further and find a cure for those who still have the chance to make that difference.
  • LAURIE GARVIN   Sep 9, 2014 1:22 PM
    I would take this challenge It is no where close to MS. iT IS ANOTHER ILLNESS THAT WE NEED TO FIND A CURE.
  • karen creed   Sep 9, 2014 2:49 PM
    Holland country dr proffesor charles constant medicine that regenerites mylin
  • Cheryl   Sep 9, 2014 5:47 PM
    I have a nephew who died from ALS at 36 years of age. Although, myself, my sister, and a brother all have MS at least there are medications to help slow the progression of MS. My nephew tried everything available and still died. I do not want to see anyone else die like that. Is there a connection? I think so.
  • Lori M Sanders   Mar 14, 2017 1:15 PM
    Thank you Dr. Coetzee for looking into this topic. I have known 2 people now who had long diagnosed MS and then died of ALS - so the relationship between the 2 diseases can't be that rare. It seems these researchers at NIH are seeing familial groupings as well.

    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22146612