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Fraudulent research throws into question plaque theory of Alzheimer’s origins

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The major theory of the cause of Alzheimer’s disease—that it’s caused by plaques in the brain—has been thrown into question following concerns that the originating research may have been fraudulent.

Researchers from the University of Minnesota may have tampered with brain scans of laboratory mice that seemed to indicate that those with the greatest brain impairment also had the highest level of a plaque derivative that they called amyloid beta star 56 (AB*56).

Since the research was published in 2006, drug companies have spent billions of dollars in developing drugs that combat the build-up of the plaques, sticky deposits of the protein amyloid beta (AB). 

Ironically, a team of short sellers—speculators who profit when a share price falls—asked neuroscientist Matthew Schrag to investigate the science behind the Alzheimer’s drug Simufilam, developed by Cassava Sciences.  

When he re-examined the brain scans that supported the Minnesota study, he discovered the images had been manipulated, and that images from other scans had been superimposed on those used in the study.

Although plaques in the brains of Alzheimer patients were first identified by pathologist Alois Alzheimer in 1906, the Minnesota researchers were the first to suggest a direct causal link.  

(Science, 2022; July 21)

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