Une enquête particulièrement minutieuse parue dans le journal Science suspecte une fraude sur un article publié en 2006 dans Nature. © freshidea, Fotolia

Alzheimer’s: does the suspicion of fraud call into question our knowledge of the disease?

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For more than two decades, clinical research into Alzheimer’s disease has produced many therapeutic dead ends. Some see this as a refutation of the amyloid hypothesis. But this hypothesis has dominated Alzheimer’s research for a long time. Although controversial, there is strong evidence that it is scientifically valid. But here it isa particularly thorough investigation published in the newspaper Science Suspected fraud in an article from 2006 in Nature. The latter is very often cited in Alzheimer’s research. Aside from the ongoing investigation, the investigation suggests that this scam could undermine the amyloid hypothesis. According to Jean-Charles Lambert, research director at Inserm, neuroscientist specializing in Alzheimer’s disease at Lille University Hospital, this is not the case.

A media frenzy

In order to fully understand what is happening, it is necessary to specify the content of the article that is the subject of suspected fraud. The latter is supposed to prove the existence of a oligomer of protein synthesis of…” data-image=”https://cdn.futura-sciences.com/buildsv6/images/midioriginal/c/2/1/c21d283fdf_50038231_plaques-seniles-amyloid-nephron-wiki-cc -30 . jpg” data-url=”https://news.google.com/health/definitions/biology-amyloid-plaque-11751/” data-more=”Read more”>beta amyloid which would be associated with cognitive decline in animal models: the amyloid beta protein *56 (AB*56), corresponding to his Dimensions molecular weight of 56 kilodaltons. It is therefore not the heart of what supports the amyloid hypothesis that is challenged, but an additional hypothesis about one of the oligomers of this protein.

But what’s the difference? If this article has been cited many times, that suggests it was influential, and articles based on those findings are good to throw away too. This is when you need to take a step back. Jean-Charles Lambert, who is familiar with the Alzheimer’s disease literature, explains the reasons why this article is widely cited: ” It is groundbreaking work in research on toxic oligomers of amyloid proteins and is cited by other research teams primarily for this purpose.”

Not so influential results

This is important because it is not so much the methodology that is suspected of being fraudulent as the results: western blot images (a biotechnology to separate and identify the proteins of a sample) would have been tampered with to stick to the original hypothesis. But as Jean-Charles Lambert points out: “ no one has been able to reproduce the results for the AB*56 protein. From then on, the results were not taken seriously by the scientific community.”

It must be understood that the AB*56 protein is not the only oligomer that has been investigated for pathogenicity in Alzheimer’s disease. There are others, and the fact that the results for one oligomer may be fraudulent does not mean the others are as well. Therefore it implies even less the fallacy of the amyloid hypothesis. On the other hand, the researchers now better understand why nobody was able to replicate the results on this oligomer.

financing risks

If this excitement is misunderstood by the public and politicians, it could lead to less funding in an area already suffering from a lack of resources. Indeed acc a recent Senate report, research in biology and health appears underfunded compared to most developed countries. The amyloid hypothesis is certainly not unassailable. We have already expressed doubts about him on Futura and think about alternative hypotheses. However, you should not pick up bad arguments and preach for your theoretical church. If the amyloid hypothesis is wrong, (honest) scientific work will take care of proving it.

What to remember

  • Allegations of fraud affecting several research articles on Alzheimer’s disease;
  • These articles were influential for their methods and not for their results;
  • Therefore, the potential fraud, serious as it is, does not challenge the amyloid hypothesis.

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