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1-min read

Here’s a Look at ALS, the Disease Stephen Hawking Lived with for Over 50 Years

While the man behind the viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Anthony Senerchia Jr (46) died last year, its most famous patient Stephen Hawking died on Wednesday at the age of 76.


Updated:March 14, 2018, 9:06 PM IST
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President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Stephen Hawking, Twitter, Technology News, Science News
Even though his body was attacked by amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, when Hawking was 21, he stunned doctors by living with the normally fatal illness for more than 50 years. (Image: Reuters)

Remember your friends pouring a bucket of ice over their head and posting pictures on Facebook and Instagram? The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was such a rage in 2014 that Indian celebrities, including Sidharth Malhotra, Akshay Kumar, Sonakshi Sinha and Bipasha Basu, also uploaded videos and nominated their co-stars and family members for the challenge. But more than the fun factor, the bucket challenge was a campaign to raise awareness and funds for a rare neurological disease, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

While the man behind the viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, Anthony Senerchia Jr (46) died last year, its most famous patient Stephen Hawking died on Wednesday at the age of 76.

Let’s take a look at the symptoms and treatment of the disease.

A group of disorders:

ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a group of rare neurological diseases that affect the nerve cells or neurons, controlling, voluntary muscle movement. The name comes from a famous US basketball player who was afflicted with ALS, in 1939.

As motor neuron disease, it gets progressively worse, hampering movements such as walking, chewing, hand gestures, etc. Eventually, even breathing gets affected.

How it works:

ALS cuts off communication between these neurons in the brain, the spinal cord and the muscle that is to be moved. Motor neurons start to die, and the muscles, receiving no inputs weaken and waste away. Most diagnosed with ALS, die within three to five years when their lungs give up.

Hawking was one of the 10 percent who lived more than 10 years after the onset of ALS. Diagnosed at the age of 21, with a rare early onset of the disease, he lived 55 years with it.


There is none to halt or slow down ALS, nor is there a cure. The best healthcare providers can do is to treat symptomatically. There is also no way to predict who will get ALS, as it develops sporadically with causes unknown.

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| Edited by: Sumedha Kirti
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