Money raised from the Ice Bucket Challenge has helped to make a significant breakthrough in identifying a key gene linked to motor neurone disease.

The Ice Bucket Challenge was a global fundraising phenomenon in 2014 when more than 17 million people reportedly uploaded their videos to Facebook.

Project MinE, which was part-funded by the Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association, has now identified a new gene NEK1, which is believed to be a gene that contributes towards the illness.

It is hoped the breakthrough will, in the future, lead to a better outcome for the 110 Irish people who will develop motor neurone disease every year.

The Ice Bucket Challenge raised €1.6m in Ireland alone and over €600,000 went directly to research.

The Irish Motor Neurone Disease Association says that one person is diagnosed with the disease every four days.

It says MND is known as the 1,000-day disease from diagnosis to death. During these 1,000 days someone with MND gradually loses control of their limbs ultimately resulting in a loss of independence.

In a statement, IMNDA Chief Executive Aisling Farrell said: "We don't yet know the impact it will have on patient's lives, but it's a breakthrough that will hopefully lead to potential treatments and one day a cure".

She said it had been a "challenging time" for the charity sector, adding that the IMNDA and "its voluntary board will continue to commit to complete transparency on how its money is spent".

This research was conducted by Prof Orla Hardiman and her team in Trinity College Dublin, who form the Irish contingent of Project MinE.

This project was set up to identify new susceptibility genes in MND and new pathways for drug development.

The remainder of the Ice Bucket Challenge money is being spent on a variety of projects, including the funding of a third dedicated MND nurse whose job it is to help patients in their own homes.