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Does a key Alzheimer's study contain fabricated images?

William Burke
Matt York/AP
FILE - In this Aug. 14, 2018 file photo, Dr. William Burke goes over a PET brain scan at Banner Alzheimer's Institute in Phoenix.

An estimated 5.8 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. But could our widely held understanding of what causes Alzheimer’s be based on a fraud? Recent allegations that a key 2006 study may have been fabricated has shaken the research community.

An investigation in Science Magazine has thrown skepticism on the work of Dr. Sylvain Lesné, a neuroscientist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota. The 2006 paper, published in the journal Nature, identified a subtype of amyloid called Aβ*56 as a cause of Alzheimer’s. The evidence uncovered in Science Magazine suggests the images in the study may have been doctored.

Hundreds of millions of dollars in drug research funding may have been provided based on the theory. Meanwhile, those investigating other potential causes of the disease may have struggled to get funding.

Cincinnati Edition reached out to Dr. Lesné and the study’s co-author Karen Ashe for an interview. A university spokesperson responded:

“The University is aware that questions have arisen regarding certain images used in peer-reviewed research publications authored by University faculty Karen Ashe and Sylvain Lesné. The University will follow its processes to review the questions any claims have raised. At this time, we have no further information to provide.”

Joining Cincinnati Edition is the author of the Science investigation, Science Magazine Correspondent Charles Piller; and University of Cincinnati College of Medicine Professor of Neurology and UC Health Physician Alberto Espay, MD.

UC Health is a financial supporter of Cincinnati Public Radio.

Listen to Cincinnati Edition live at noon M-F. Audio for this segment will be uploaded after 4 p.m. ET.

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