Celebrities are coming out of the woodwork to have buckets of ice water dumped on them. The purpose is to raise awareness about ALS, also called Lou Gehrig's disease, as well as to raise money for research.
ALS attacks nerve cells that control muscle movement, therefore, people with the disease lose their ability to walk, talk, eat, and eventually breathe.
Most people with ALS die within three to five years of being diagnosed.
What is ALS?
There is no cure for ALS and only one FDA-approved drug for the treatment of the disease, called Riluzole. But it only prolongs life for an average of two months.
The ALS Association reports raising well into the tens of millions of dollars, which is exponentially more than they raised during the same period of time last year.
The group plans to use the money to fund research and provide services for people suffering from the disease.
It should be noted, however, that some of their research utilizes embryonic stem cells. This form of research is objectionable to pro-life groups such as Catholics and Evangelical Christians, because it necessitates the destruction of human embryos, unique human beings, in order to harvest the stem cells.
The ALS Association says donors may wish to specify that their donations not be used on embryonic stem cell research.
Some pro-life organizations recommend donating to a ALS research other than through the ALS Association.
One such organization is Winning The Fight, which researches "The Deanna Protocol," a metabolic therapy that has proven successful in humans and in a mice.
The Deanna Protocol is named after Deanna Tedone-Gage, who was only 30 years old when her doctor informed her she didn't have long to live.
"He said you have ALS. And at that moment I felt like I left my body," she recalled.
Deanna's father, Dr. Vincent Tedone, an orthopedic surgeon, was shocked by what little help was available.
"We took her to all the various citadels that specialize in ALS. And to my chagrin, there was nothing that could be done for her," he said.
The Deanna Protocol
Unwilling to accept defeat, Dr. Tedone devoted himself to developing a treatment to help his daughter.
"I call myself the resident guinea pig," Deanna laughed.
Finally, one treatment worked, meaning it significantly slowed the progression of Deanna's ALS.
Dr. Tedone named his treatment, "The Deanna Protocol." It consists of a number of supplements, such as A-A-K-G, which gives cells energy.
"So we put her on the AKG and then we ran out of it. Within one day her tremors became unbelievable," Tedone recalled. "Got some more, put her back on it, the tremors subsided."
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Tedone chronicled his daughter's success online.
Soon, dozens of other people with ALS tried The Deanna Protocol and experienced similar results -- people like Anthony Topazi, the former president of the Mississippi Power Company, who said it reversed some of his ALS symptoms.
"Six months ago I had a problem with excess saliva, I don't have that problem today. My voice is better than it was. It's not perfect, but it's better than it was," Topazi said. "I couldn't drink water or take a pill without feeling like I was going to choke to death."
"Today I'm taking 30 pills a day and I don't even think about it," he continued. "I could only eat soft foods six months ago. I'm eating steak, ribs, anything I want today."
Of the people who've tried The Deanna Protocol, 75 percent report slowed progression of their ALS and reduced symptoms such as twitching and difficulty walking.
Testing it Out
Interest in The Deanna Protocol led researchers at the University of South Florida to study its effects on mice with ALS.
Dr. Dominic D'Agostino said the results from the animal study offer encouragement to people with the disease.
"It's important to recognize that the animal model we used is very aggressive, and is probably significantly more aggressive than the human form of ALS," he said.
Still, The Deanna Protocol significantly improved the symptoms of the mice with ALS.
Dr. D'Agostino reports the mice on The Deanna Protocol has improved neurological scores, increased motor function and most importantly, survived longer than the mice who weren't on it.
"I think it's pretty remarkable that there are hundreds of drugs and experimental compounds that are being screened with this animal model," he said.
"And relative to what's out there, I think this has proven to be probably the most effective thing out there that's readily available to the general public and to ALS patients," D'Agostino added.
The results of The Deana Protocol mouse study were published in two leading medical journals, PLOS One and The FASEB Journal.
D'Agostino said this new scientific evidence may prompt greater acceptance within the medical community of The Deanna Protocol.
"To me, it's a very important finding. And I think doctors, neurologists, need to acknowledge the results of this study, and the feedback from patients, and I think they should recommend it as a therapeutic option for patients," he said.
D'Agostino said patients should start on The Deanna Protocol soon after diagnosis. He said more research on The Deanna Protocol is in the works.
Meanwhile, Deanna is holding steady, six years after her diagnosis. She is a woman of faith and says perhaps God allowed her to get ALS so that her father would develop a treatment that would prolong the lives of ALS patients until a cure is found.