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Alzheimer’s: Alleged image manipulation in seminal paper casts doubt on leading hypothesis of disease

BMJ 2022; 378 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.o2041 (Published 17 August 2022) Cite this as: BMJ 2022;378:o2041
  1. Owen Dyer
  1. Montreal

A landmark 2006 article in the journal Nature that sent Alzheimer’s research down new paths may have used manipulated images to support its conclusions, says an independent researcher whose findings prompted the journal to publish an expression of concern last month.

The article, A Specific Amyloid-β Protein Assembly in the Brain Impairs Memory,1 has been cited 2300 times in other papers, making it the fifth most cited article on Alzheimer’s disease since it was published in 2006.

The study breathed new life into the theory that amyloid β (Aβ) proteins, commonly found in plaques in the brains of dead patients, are not just a symptom but the prime cause of Alzheimer’s disease.

This theory has dominated the field since amyloid β was identified as the main component of the plaques in 1984. It was reinforced in 1991 when familial Alzheimer’s disease was traced to a mutation in a gene that codes for an amyloid precursor protein. But treatments based on removing amyloid plaque or preventing its formation have never yielded clinical improvement in dementia scores.

Scrutiny

The 2006 paper pointed to a particular oligomer, or clump of amyloid proteins, called Aβ*56, as an alternative culprit. According to the study, the …

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