Tainted Alzheimer’s Science

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The Genius Life #244 / Mind Pump #1875

In these podcasts you will learn of shocking news hot off the press from the brain health master Max Lugavere

The Discovery

It has been revealed that a seminal 2006 scientific research paper published in the journal Nature was built on fraudulent data. This has overturn more than 15 years of effort in terms of looking for a pharmaceutical cure for Alzheimer’s disease. 

The prevailing hypothesis which has guided drug discovery for Alzheimer’s disease over the past century is called the amyloid hypothesis.

The Amyloid Hypothesis

Amyloid beta is a protein we all produce in our brains, which was discovered by Alois Alzheimer in 1906.

He saw a plaque surrounding neurons in the brain of a cadaver, similar to how plaque covers your teeth. This plaque was later named amyloid beta. 

These plaques therefore became the focus for Alzheimer’s drug discovery. With the idea that if we can remove them from the brain, or prevent the brain from accumulating them, we will have a cure for Alzheimer’s.

But from day one there were dissident voices questioning this theory. With the primary one being; many older people have amyloid beta in their brains, but they do not all have the cognitive deficit associated with Alzheimer’s.

Other Theories: Diabetes 3

Scientists have looked down other paths. For example the “metabolic origin theory”. 

This states that Alzheimer’s is a problem of glucose hypometabolism in the brain. Which is a deficit in the ability of the brain to create ATP from sugar. 

This is where the terminology diabetes 3 comes from. In a similar way a diabetes 2 sufferer is unable to produce insulin from the pancreas to breakdown glucose in the blood.

Back to the Amyloid Hypothesis

The central idea is that the amyloid plaques were the cause of Alzheimer’s. Whereas there were scientists who never entirely bought into this theory, believing the plaques were probably a symptom. But not the cause.

Similar to the way cholesterol is not the cause of atherosclerosis. Cholesterol build-up is being deposited in the arteries due to other factors or variables such as inflammation or oxidation. This is a symptom, but not the cause.

Amyloid plaques were there in every Alzheimer sufferer’s brain, but scientists were never able to connect these amyloid plaques with memory impairment. Not until the aforementioned publication of this paper in 2006 by Sylvain Lesne, which proved the amyloid hypothesis (fraudulently). 

How Did This Paper Prove the Amyloid Hypothesis?

Sylvain Lesne showed that when amyloid was injected into young mice, it dramatically impaired their memory cognition. 

This was the missing link. The silver bullet which proved the hypothesis correct. Finally the millions of dollars invested into this hypothesis had the proof they were looking for. Which further increased investment into a pharmaceutical cure for Alzheimer’s following the amyloid hypothesis. 

Alzheimer’s Drug Trials Efficacy

Scientists had long been questioning the amyloid hypothesis. Primarily because Alzheimer’s drug trials tackling this hypothesis have a dismal success rate: 99.6% of such drug trials based around the amyloid hypothesis failed.

Pharmaceutical companies were developing drugs which would reduce the amyloid plaque. But continuously showed no improvement in cognitive symptoms.

Aduhelm: An FDA Approved Alzheimer’s Drug

This is a highly controversial drug which was approved by the FDA in 2021. The first Alzheimer’s drug approved in thirteen years.

Essentially this drug sends antibodies that mark amyloid plaques for clearing by the body’s own immune system. This actually creates an inflammatory response in the brain, which then helps to reduce the plaques by training our own immune system to clear them.

But what they found in the trials, was even though Aduhelm did succeed at reducing plaque burden in the brain, it did not improve cognition. It did not improve anything with any clinical value other than serve as a confirmation bias that we can, with a drug, reduce the brain’s plaque burden.

The FDA panel looking at this drug had eleven people on it. Eight of the people on the internal panel told the FDA that ethically, in terms of the efficacy, this drug should not be approved. 

Two people withheld comments. And only one said yes, let’s go ahead.

But the FDA ended up approving it. After which three people resigned.

Yes, Aduhelm improves plaque in the brain. But it does not improve any of the indicators we want to improve with regards to Alzheimer’s disease.

Furthermore, during the trials, there was a 35% side-effect rate. Which meant that 35% of the people used in the trials saw brain swelling. And about half of those had bleeding associated with the brain swelling.

Science Advances One Funeral At a Time

With such negative results, how did the drug get approved?

In science, as in every industry, you have fiercely territorial obstinate personalities. We expect science to evolve naturally. To be driven by curiosity with a desire to augment the human condition and to make life better for people. But this is not how science necessarily works.

Science is an industry. It’s a tool which is wielded often by people (scientists) with serious personality defects.

Being published in the journal Nature is like winning an academy award for a scientist. Therefore the hubris attached to this publication came with a large amount of credibility. Add to that the prestigious University of Minnesota Lesne was at, working under Karen Ashe who herself was considered to be a potential Nobel Prize winner for her work. There becomes a groupthink which is incredibly difficult to backtrack from, where even an organisation like the FDA can be severely blinkered.

The Fraudulent Data

All studies when published in a major medical journal are subject to peer review. But scientists aren’t looking with a fine tooth comb at imagery. They’re not image sleuths. 

When a paper is submitted for peer reviews, scientists are looking at the numbers. Reading the methodology. Looking at the conclusions.

But in this case it was the actual images which had been falsified.

The data presenting technique which was deliberately fudged is called the “western blot”. These are images that, depending on how bold a block appears, show a stronger presence of a certain protein.

The whistleblower who identified this data as being fraudulent had already garnered a bit of credibility as he was critical of the Aduhelm drug.

Over the course of his research, he decided to dig deeper into this 2006 paper using imaging software. What he discovered was some of these blots in the western-blot diagrams were literally copied and pasted. Purposefully faked. Identical blots to others in the paper. He found digital artefacts that were clearly copied and pasted, multiple times.

The data was presented in the paper showing a specific subtype of amyloid beta, called AB*56. It was this specific subtype which was shown to be directly responsible for cognitive deficits in the young rats it was injected into.

What turned out to be the case, was that other scientists since 2006 were not able to find this AB*56 amyloid subtype. 

But at the time of publishing the paper, this amyloid subtype discovery was accepted as true because it had the pedigree from the university, and was published in the journal Nature. Everybody just accepted what was shown on the western blot at face value.

The Money Trail

How could this happen? Money!

US$3bn goes into Alzhemiers research every year from the NIH (National Institute of Health). And a major percentage of that goes into amyloid associated research.

It’s not just that this research paper derailed scientific direction for sixteen years. The other problem was any other scientist who came up with another hypothesis or viewpoint would be ridiculed by the so-called “amyloid mafia”. 

Because scientists were so heavily invested in the amyloid hypothesis, if it was proven to be incorrect, they would have cost millions of dollars and years of wasted research.

Pharmaceutical Funding

When the NIH gives out funding into Alzheimer’s research as an example, they would easily give funding on any prevailing theory. The theory in this case being the amyloid hypothesis.

This means that funding for other directional research into Alzheimer’s was incredibly difficult to come by. Because without a prevailing theory, the NIH would not want to fund something new. 

Therefore the pharmaceutical companies who are looking for money from investment, would direct all their research into the prevailing hypothesis. And not give money to alternative directions.

Alzheimer’s and other dementia type diseases begin in the brain 30-40 years before the presentation of symptoms. So the idea you are going to have a drug, a monotherapy, which comes along and undoes decades worth of damage is a pipe dream and arrogant.

But nonetheless, because amyloid is found in the brains of people with Alzheimers, it was just plausible enough for scientists to buy in to. Which is precisely what happened. 

Pharmaceutical companies developed a drug which cost millions, and returned billions. Before such a drug becomes generic, it is patented with the developing pharmaceutical company who has exclusive rights on this and charges whatever they want to get their return on investment.

Alternative Solution

The problem is things which almost certainly work to reduce or improve Alzheimer’s symptoms such as :

  • Eat a whole food diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid exposure to toxins
  • Avoid processed foods
  • Get good sleep

None of this sells. None of these have a billion dollar exit plan. None of these give a return to investors.

Once you understand how this industry works, you can critically evaluate with an open mind what intentions could be.

Conclusion

We must be careful. It is too easy to blame the pharmaceutical industry for these mistakes. When actually there are multiple points at which this could have been stopped.

The best cure for any non-communicable disease is probably prevention through lifestyle improvements. It is literally never too late to make these improvements. 

Let’s rely on ourselves. Let’s take ownership of our own bodies. Let’s be responsible for our own health. 

By doing this we give ourselves the best chance to avoid brain deterioration diseases, and other such non-communicable illnesses. 

There are no guarantees in life. There are always outliers like children with leukemia, or the centenarian who has smoked all their lives. But be careful to not use these outliers as the reason for not taking responsibility for your own health.

Give yourself the best chance possible to live disease free by eating whole foods, exercising regularly, and getting good sleep.

To learn more, listen to these podcasts, and read the work of Max Lugavere who has dedicated his life to researching this debilitating disease

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