For the last seven years, a rare neurological disorder ravaged Mitchell Herndon's body.

As the condition — a genetic mutation diagnosed in only a few people in the world — robbed the Missouri teen of his ability to walk, took his hearing and then his eyesight, Herndon made a decision: If the disease killed him, he would donate his body to science in the hopes of saving others.

Last Wednesday, just days before a potentially life-saving drug would have been made available to him, Herndon, 19, died. Abiding by his wishes, Herndon's family chose to gift his body to Washington University in St. Louis for research into neuro-muscular diseases — something that doctors say will be invaluable for advancing the understanding of more than his own disorder.

"It's an incredible tool which he has donated. This will have an impact for many people that get identified with his condition in the future, as well as other people with other neurodegenerative conditions" such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or possibly Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, said Dr. Bob Bucelli, the neurologist who treated Herndon for the past year and an associate professor of neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. "It's a limitless resource that he's given and incredible what he's offered the medical community by doing that."

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