Often the instructions are just add water. This time, it’s just add video.

Remember the summer two years ago and the Internet was awash (pun intended) with people pouring ice-cold water on themselves? From Bill Gates to George W Bush, Matt Damon to Benedict Cumberbatch, the challenge was to post a video of the person being drenched with freezing water.

One in six of us in the UK ended up with cold water over our heads as the Ice Bucket Challenge went viral, with the goal to raise money for research into motor neurone disease.

The really great news is, thanks to all that cold water, scientists have now discovered a gene variant associated with the condition – and that will steer further research to find much needed treatments.

By using social media as a platform, the challenge appealed to the ‘look-at-me’ side of people. It was easy to do and more importantly, easy to film. And, as the challenge went viral, it appealed to our competitive nature, with friends tagging others to get involved and throwing out a subconscious challenge to make a funnier, more engaging video.

Originally, the fund-rising side of the challenge was questioned, with some figures suggesting that only 10 percent of people who took part in the challenge actually donated. However – and here’s where the power of video is really shown – even if it was only a tiny fraction of participants putting their hands in their pockets, that translated into £88m donated for research into motor neurone disease in a single month.

The discovery of the NEK1 gene is as a direct result of the ice bucket videos. Existing grants for the work pre 2014 were not enough to fund the necessary research. Once the donations came, the ALS Association (the US organization for motor neurone disease and the body behind the original challenge) funded a special project bringing together 80 researchers from 11 countries to look at the genetics behind the disease.

And now, thanks to this international cooperation and the power of video, future generations may be spared this degenerative disease.

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