Posted by: Chris Maloney | January 6, 2012

Stephen Hawking and Lou Gehrigs (ALS): Any Closer To a Cure?

Physicist Stephen Hawking in Zero Gravity NASA

Image via Wikipedia

As we fittingly toast Dr. Hawking’s contributions to physics, let’s take a moment to look at the disease that has spared him his life while taking so many others.

I cannot do justice to Dr. Hawking except to say that he is indeed extraordinary.  I thought myself familiar with him but had no idea he had a family.  He also manages a website.  Here is his description of his disease in his own words at ten minutes a sentence.

In terms of our advancements in Lou Gehrigs or ALS, we have none.  Supportive care is the best that modern medicine or alternative medicine can offer.  The existing drug prolongs life by less than two months.   Studies like recombinant insulin growth factor seem to get preliminary positive results but aren’t followed up on.  It would seem that the model of a single cure for ALS is a pipe dream decades after Dr. Hawking’s diagnosis.

My own hypothesis is that something causes the autoimmune reaction in susceptible patients.  The easiest target for this is Clostridium, a largely antibiotic resistant organism that can proliferate in most people without serious neurological effects.  In genetically susceptible patients, the Clostridium may cause cross-reacting nerve damage.  We would suspect this species first because it is of the same family as tetanus and botulism.

I am not alone in this suspicion.  Below is a hypothesis from neurologists in Washington.  But when you contact neurologists, they are often focused on other illnesses, and see fit to only provide supportive care for this deadly disease.  We can only speculate that Dr. Hawking had a mild susceptibility from very early on, worsened by increased exercise in his college years, and slow moving since then.  There’s also the fact that he completely changed his life and focus after the disease diagnosis.

Med Hypotheses. 2005;64(6):1153-6.

Hypothesis: a motor neuron toxin produced by a clostridial species residing in gut causes ALS.


Department of Neurology, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA.


We hypothesize that a yet-to-be-identified motor neuron toxin produced by a clostridial species causes sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in susceptible individuals. This clostridial species would reside undetected in the gut and chronically produce a toxin that targets the motor system, like the tetanus and botulinum toxins. After gaining access to the lower motor neuron, the toxin would be transported back to the cell body, as occurs with the tetanus toxin, and destroy the lower motor neuron – the essential feature of ALS. Again like the tetanus toxin, some of the toxin would cross to neighboring cells and to the upper motor neuron and similarly destroy these motor neurons. Weakness would relentlessly progress until not enough motor neurons remained to sustain life. If this hypothesis were correct, treatment with appropriate antibiotics or antitoxins might slow or halt progression of disease, and immunization might prevent disease.



  1. […] Stephen Hawking and Lou Gehrigs (ALS): Any Closer To a Cure? ( […]

  2. I came across a very interesting article on natural medicinal plants and ALS:

  3. Thank you, very interesting. My own look at ayuhuasca ( would lend some support to a study trial based on neurological performance enhancements in volunteers.

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