Critical elements of Alzheimer’s study leadership may be fraudulent | Alzheimer’s disease

According to a report in Science, crucial elements of one of the most cited papers in Alzheimer’s disease research in the past two decades may have been manipulated.

Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia globally, according to the World Health Organization. The highly influential research paper, published in Nature in 2006, helped direct billions of dollars in US federal government research on Alzheimer’s disease, according to Science.

The study, which looked at cognitive decline in mice, suggested that a specific amyloid protein may be responsible for cognitive decline. The hypothesis has since dominated the field, and researchers have worked for years to understand the mechanism by which these proteins might lead to degradation.

But Tennessee neuroscientist Vanderbilt University professor Matthew Schrag said in a science article that he and other reviewers have identified as many as 10 research papers on the protein that deserve closer scrutiny. The report also notes that other prominent researchers have had difficulty replicating the results of studies on specific proteins.

“I focus on what we can see in the published images, and describe them as red flags, not final conclusions,” he told Science magazine, when revealing his role as a whistleblower. “The data has to speak for itself.”

The crux of the matter is whether the images in multiple papers have been manipulated to better support a hypothesis, with researcher Sylvain Lesny’s work under special scrutiny. Lesny, an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota, is now under investigation by the university.

Several papers have been co-authored by Dr. Karen Ash, who is also a researcher at the University of Minnesota and one of the country’s leading Alzheimer’s disease researchers. She called the potential image manipulation of the Minneapolis Star Tribune “devastating,” but criticized the idea that her research into amyloid proteins unilaterally directs federal spending and drug companies.

Finding a cure for Alzheimer’s has eluded scientists for decades. Although there are medications to treat symptoms of early- and middle-stage Alzheimer’s disease, only one drug has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat the protein plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease: aducanumab.

The drug, which was sold under the brand name Aduhelm and developed by Biogen, was the subject of its own controversy last year. Because it was under consideration for approval in 2021, several FDA officials said there was not enough evidence of its usefulness to support approval.

However, the agency approved the drug, which costs Biogen $56,000. This led to the resignation of three FDA officials, one of whom said there was “no good evidence that the drug works.”

The National Institute on Aging believes that more than 6 million Americans have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 850,000 people in the UK suffer from dementia.

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