Hawking, who died this week at age 76, may have lived longer
with ALS than any patient in history. Here’s what we know about
the disease, and his case in particular.
Posted on March 14, 2018, 21:46 GMT
So why did Hawking’s case progress more slowly than others?
There isn’t a clear answer. “We do not know exactly why he
lived for so long and every individual’s journey is different,
but genes and environment play a role in the progression of the
disease,” Bruijn said. In addition to the possible genetic and
environmental factors that could’ve allowed Hawking to live
longer, he had remarkable access to care and advanced
“If you get assistance to move and speak, the quality of life
will improve — the fact that he could continue to work is a
huge aspect of mental health,” Bruijn said. That being said,
many patients with ALS will continue to decline regardless of
any treatment or technology. “It’s a very complex disease and
his slow progression and long life just reflects the fact that
it’s a very variable,” Bruijn said. However, Hawking was likely
an exception to the rule. It is unclear which type of ALS
Hawking had, and whether this was a factor.
Researchers are continuing to study ALS and working towards a
cure. “We are involved in studies globally to learn more about
ALS and find new clues about genes and environmental factors
and how they interact,” Bruijn said.