Scandal in the scientific community: Pioneering Alzheimer's studies allegedly falsified

Scandal in the scientific community: Pioneering Alzheimer’s studies allegedly falsified

Another research scandal is currently shaking up the scientific community and raising some uncomfortable questions. For once, this time it is not about the currently open questions about the COVID-19 pandemic, but about Alzheimer’s research. The French researcher Sylvain Lesné is said to have falsified several studies on the subject over the years. Previously, the science magazine Science reported in detail.

Lesné’s scientific publications suggested that a molecule called amyloid-beta*56 (Abeta*56) was one of the causes of the brain disorders in Alzheimer’s disease. But now not only this connection is in question, but even whether the corresponding molecule occurs in the human brain at all. The allegations: Lesné is said to have massively manipulated numerous images intended to prove the existence of the molecule.

He is said to have used a method that can best be compared with the way Photoshop software works for processing digitized images. Lesné seems to have composed his published illustrations from parts of photos from different experiments. However, since some parts of the illustrations appeared several times and looked exactly the same, this manipulation was now exposed – through an image analysis. Thus, the data may have been altered to better fit the hypothesis and mimic the presence of Abeta*56.

For the first time, the biochemist falsified these representations in one of the most cited Alzheimer’s studies of this century, published in 2006 in the specialist journal Nature appeared. But it didn’t stop there: More than 20 more of his publications are said to be Science get fake pictures.

The debate now revolves around the extent to which Lesné would have harmed all of Alzheimer’s research and the affected patients. Numerous experts once rated his work as proof that the so-called amyloid hypothesis explains the development of Alzheimer’s disease. This hypothesis states that initially protein molecules clump together in the brain to form so-called amyloid plaques and attach to the nerve cells. In the next step, solid fiber bundles form in the nerve cells. Both the plaques and fibers are toxic to nerve cells, causing these neurons to die over time. This dramatic loss of intact, interconnected neurons, in turn, leads to the mental deficits characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.

Lesné’s publications were an advance in the field of neurology for those researchers who believed that it was not the clumps, but the protein snippets as their starting material that were responsible for the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Accordingly, representatives of the amyloid hypothesis were provided with a large part of the further research funds. The proponents of the hypothesis also lobbied successfully, so that other approaches received little funding. It has almost never been about questioning the amyloid hypothesis.

Universities and pharmaceutical companies around the world have invested billions of dollars or euros in the development of substances that could possibly prevent plaque formation. But in recent years disillusionment has spread: substances have actually been found that can dissolve the clumps on the nerve cells. However, this changed almost nothing in the dramatic course of the disease.

To what extent the allegations against Lesné call into question the foundations of Alzheimer’s research is the subject of the current debate. This is what Alzheimer’s researcher Robert Perneczky from the University of Munich said New Zurich newspaper the view that Lesné’s work has not been instrumental in drug development in recent years. Many experts also believe that while the amyloid plaques and fascicles play a role in Alzheimer’s, the causal chain for the disease is more complex than previously thought. There are a variety of risk factors:

“These include soluble clump components, clumps, fiber bundles in the brain, various gene mutations, but also obesity, high blood pressure, excessive alcohol consumption, smoking, brain injuries, loneliness, poor education and depression.”

Nevertheless, the allegations raise numerous questions about the scientific community itself: If the negligence is confirmed, Lesné’s superiors, but also the specialist publishers and the experts commissioned by them, will have to ask themselves why the alleged years of falsification of results had not been noticed until recently . In addition, every scandal of this kind shakes up the scientific community in general, because in this way trust in the sciences is lost.

The topic is also relevant for people outside of the scientific community, because if Lesné should have cheated, the economic damage involved would also be enormous: his cheating would have steered enormous sums of money in the wrong direction of research funding.

It is also characteristic of today that it was capitalist profit interests that aroused doubts about Lesné’s works: Loud Science Neuroscientist Matthew Schrag came across the inconsistencies in Lesné’s work while working on behalf of a lawyer to search for irregularities in research into an experimental drug called Simufilam as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. The lawyer’s clients were two prominent neuroscientists who are also so-called short sellers on the stock market, meaning they profit when the share price of a particular company falls. They believed that the work related to the drug Simufilam could have been “fraudulent”. However, Schrag’s research eventually led him to the inconsistencies in Lesné’s work.

More on the subject – Mysterious neurological disease in young adults in Canada

Source: RT

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