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Stephen Hillenburg attends the world premiere of "The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out Of Water" at AMC Lincoln Square on Saturday, Jan. 31, 2015, in New York. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

The creator of 'SpongeBob' was diagnosed with ALS, but plans to keep working on the show

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Stephen Hillenburg, the creator of "SpongeBob SquarePants," announced Monday he had been diagnosed with ALS.

The disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's disease, has no cure. It affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord and deteriorates motor function over time.

Hillenburg, 55, told Variety he would keep working on the show as he battled the disease. SpongeBob has been on the air since 1999. 

Steve Hillenburg is a brilliant creator who brings joy to millions of fans.
Nickelodeon statement

Hillenburg was a former marine biology teacher before hitting it big animating SpongeBob. He also directed the 2004 SpongeBob movie and the 2015 sequel. 

Social media was quickly full of well-wishes and tributes.

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