Ice Bucket Challenge leads to ALS breakthrough

Frates' creation helps researchers move closer to a cure

Ice Bucket Challenge leads to ALS breakthrough

Pete Frates and the Ice Bucket Challenge are helping researchers move closer to finding a cure for ALS.

Frates, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2012, created the Ice Bucket Challenge two years ago, and it grew into one of the most famous viral sensations of all-time during the Summer of '14.

There were more than 17 million videos posted of people pouring ice-cold water over their heads, in addition to more than $220 million raised for the ALS Association. Those funds helped increase research, which led to a breakthrough in July, when scientists identified a new ALS gene, NEK1, which is among the most common genes that contribute to the disease. This breakthrough has given scientists another potential object for therapy development.

"Thanks to the Ice Bucket Challenge, we found NEK1, this gene that is one of the most common in people living with ALS that we've identified yet," ALS Association executive vice president Brian Frederick told MLB Network. "We have a couple potential treatments in clinical trials within the next year or two that will hopefully lead to a treatment that helps stop -- and ultimately cure -- this disease."

Frates, who grew up a diehard Red Sox fan, has led the charge in the fight to find a cure for ALS for four years and counting. He was the captain of the Boston College baseball team in 2007, before being diagnosed with ALS in March 2012. It was a turning point in the life of a promising young athlete, but one that has grown into a positive outcome for many.

ALS research was largely underfunded before the Ice Bucket Challenge. Soon after Frates got the ball rolling, videos started flooding social media. All 30 Major League Baseball teams participated, in addition to former presidents, global CEOs, nuns and sports figures, to name a few.

What started as a simple challenge has now led to hope for a cure for ALS.

"I think that's the greatest satisfaction Pete's getting, is that he knows his efforts and how he has handled his challenge will make it better for ALS patients that are going to follow him," Nancy Frates, Pete's mother, told MLB Network.

The fight against ALS is far from over for Frates and all who have been impacted by the disease, but things are moving in the right direction.

"He's locked in a mortal combat duel with ALS," John Frates, Pete's father, told MLB Network. "We call it the beast in this house. But the beast has been mortally wounded. The beast picked on the wrong guy. He picked on the wrong family. And the beast is now starting to give up its secrets, and it will be destroyed."

Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.