Dogmatic belief that beta-amyloid deposits cause Alzheimer's disease has stifled research into other explanations for the disease and put science and drug development for the mind-robbing condition on a dead end, argues Sharon Begley in a compelling story for Stat that was published earlier today.
"The failure of every amyloid-based experimental compound has, finally, triggered soul searching about how it all went so wrong," writes Begley, a well-known science journalist who is a senior reporter for Stat.
Other hypotheses about the cause of Alzheimer's include inflammation and infection. The gist of Begley's 4,500-word story is that those and other ideas (and the scientists who tried to advance them) have been squelched in myriad ways by an agenda–setting ecosystem that includes NIH grant review, the pecking order of scientific publications, speaker selection at scientific meetings, and the funding choices of biotech and pharmaceutical companies.
Begley quotes George Perry, a neuroscientist at the University of Texas–San Antonio as saying that scientists who didn't go along with the amyloid hypothesis "became roadkill on the highway to nowhere."
Some scientists describe the amyloid believers as a cabal, writes Begley, although she walks that characterization back some by saying "the amyloid camp was neither organized nor nefarious," and that the researchers believed their thinking would lead to an effective Alzheimer's drug. She quotes an amyloid researcher as expressing doubts about whether openness to other explanations for Alzheimer's would been any more fruitful.
Begley ends her story ends on an upbeat note about the growing amount of research into non-amyloid interventions.