ALS Progression Leads to Hawking’s Death

Stephen Hawking, a renowned scientists, died at the age of 76 years, as his family members reported British media early on March 14, 2018.

Hawking suffered from Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), a progressive, neurodegenerative disease, which affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. This syndrome causes loss of ability muscle movement and control, leading to paralysis and death. Hawking thus, lost his ability to eat, speak and move, however, was able to move only a few fingers on one hand.

Hawking was first diagnosed with this condition in 1963, at the age of 21. He has been an exception to this neurodegenerative disease by living with it for over 50 years.

“I try to lead as normal a life as possible, and not think about my condition, or regret the things it prevents me from doing, which are not that many. I have been lucky that my condition has progressed more slowly than is often the case. But it shows that one need not lose hope.” Said Hawking on his website.

His life has been depicted in a biopic ‘The Theory of Everything’, starring Eddie Redmayne. According to The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 20,000 to 30,000 people suffer from ALS in the U.S., with around 5,000 people newly diagnosed with the disease every year. This disease usually affects people aged between 55 years and 75 years. And the average life span of sufferers is two to five years.

The cause of the disease is yet unknown, however, research says that military veterans are twice as more likely develop ALS than the general public, as reports of the ALS Association.

Hawking’s case was different from the rest, and is explained to be so due to the fact that he acquired juvenile onset of ALS, which showed extremely slow progression. The disease did not seem to have put an end to his daily functioning, as he spent 30 years as a full professor of mathematics at the University of Cambridge and was a director of research at the school’s Center for Theoretical Cosmology.

Hawking was thus a living example of the variability of the disease and a hope for sufferers that they could also live a long life. Unfortunately, a small percentage of people are known to live as long as he did. However, scientists are intending to develop therapies to extend life span of these patients, as inspired by Hawking’s case.

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