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Creator of ‘SpongeBob SquarePants’ diagnosed with ALS

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NEW YORK — The animator who created “SpongeBob SquarePants” has confirmed he has been diagnosed with ALS. The neurodegenerative disease is also referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Stephen Hillenburg revealed the diagnosis to Variety. He’s 55 years old.

The cartoon first aired on Nickelodeon in 1999 and became a multibillion-dollar franchise. Hillenburg told Variety he plans to keep working on the cartoon for as long as he can.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke defines ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, as “a rare group of neurological diseases that mainly involve the nerve cells (neurons) responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movement.”

Voluntary muscle movement is necessary for walking, talking and even breathing.

“Currently, there is no cure for ALS and no effective treatment to halt, or reverse, the progression of the disease,” NINDS website states.