Major Alzheimer’s Research Questioned as Suspicious

From the journal Science, a revelation that one of the most consequential and foundational bits of Alzheimer’s disease research in the last quarter century may be based on suspicious data.

The controversy revolves around a 2006 study showing that buildup of a specific amyloid protein in neural tissue was the primary mechanism of Alzheimer’s. This research was based in large part on advanced imaging showing the buildup, and research showing the amyloid buildup in rats caused dementia.

“A 6-month investigation by Science provided strong support for Schrag’s suspicions and raised questions about [Sylvain] Lesné’s research. A leading independent image analyst and several top Alzheimer’s researchers—including George Perry of the University of Texas, San Antonio, and John Forsayeth of the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)—reviewed most of Schrag’s findings at Science’s request. They concurred with his overall conclusions, which cast doubt on hundreds of images, including more than 70 in Lesné’s papers. Some look like “shockingly blatant” examples of image tampering, says Donna Wilcock, an Alzheimer’s expert at the University of Kentucky.”

Other research institutions are also beginning investigations into Lesné’s research.

Since its publication in 2006, the amyloid hypothesis has been one of – if not the – driving forces in research into Alzheimer’s and dementia. A plurality and possibly a majority of all research into these fields now touches on the amyloid hypothesis, which is now thrown into tremendous doubt. In that time all of that research has failed to produce substantive functional treatments, and more than a few drugs whose releases were controversial. If this study is shown to be fraudulent, it would effectively have set back Alzheimer’s research for a generation by leading researchers and doctors down a dead end.

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