Motor neurone disease (MND) campaigners have welcomed a research breakthrough which was funded by the “ice bucket challenge”.
The challenge went viral in 2014 and saw people, including scores of celebrities, posting videos of themselves being doused with freezing cold water.
Despite being criticised by some as a stunt, the campaign raised 115 million US dollars (£87.7 million) and funded six research projects.
One of them has now led to the discovery of a new gene linked to the disease, NEK1.
Scientists believe the breakthrough could lead to the development of new treatments for the condition, which is also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
Scottish MND patient and campaigner Gordon Aikman hailed the development as a step closer to a cure for the disease.
He was diagnosed with MND in 2014 and has gone on to campaign for more support for research into the condition.
Mr Aikman said: “I think this development pours ice-cold water over any claims the ice bucket challenge was just a silly stunt.
“I hope this discovery is the first of many.
“We’ve got bucket-loads of progress to make to cure this disease. People should keep on giving because it does make a difference.”
Through his website GordonsFightback.com, Mr Aikman has raised more than £500,000 for investment in research.
Craig Stockton, chief executive of MND Scotland, said the charity was “thrilled” by the announcement of the research breakthrough.
He said: “The discovery of this new gene helps to fill in another piece of the jigsaw that is MND.
“Whilst further research is needed to understand what part the NEK1 gene plays in the development of MND, it will provide scientists with an important new target for developing new treatments.
“This news shows that continuing to fund vital research is the only way to take us a step closer to finding a cure.”
The Project MinE study, which produced the discovery, was funded by US charity the ALS Association using money from the Ice Bucket Challenge.
Their results were published in the journal Nature Genetics.