Researchers Plan To Retract Landmark Alzheimer’s Paper Containing Doctored Images

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Science Magazine: Authors of a landmark Alzheimer’s disease research paper published in Nature in 2006 have agreed to retract the study in response to allegations of image manipulation. University of Minnesota (UMN) Twin Cities neuroscientist Karen Ashe, the paper’s senior author, acknowledged in a post on the journal discussion site PubPeer that the paper contains doctored images. The study has been cited nearly 2500 times, and would be the most cited paper ever to be retracted, according to Retraction Watch data. “Although I had no knowledge of any image manipulations in the published paper until it was brought to my attention two years ago,” Ashe wrote on PubPeer, “it is clear that several of the figures in Lesne et al. (2006) have been manipulated … for which I as the senior and corresponding author take ultimate responsibility.” After initially arguing the paper’s problems could be addressed with a correction, Ashe said in another post last week that all of the authors had agreed to a retraction — with the exception of its first author, UMN neuro-scientist Sylvain Lesne, a protege of Ashe’s who was the focus of a 2022 investigation by Science. “It’s unfortunate that it has taken 2 years to make the decision to retract,” says Donna Wilcock, an Indiana University neuroscientist and editor of the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia. “The evidence of manipulation was overwhelming.”

The 2006 paper suggested an amyloid beta (AB) protein called AB*56 could cause Alzheimer’s. AB proteins have long been linked to the disease. The authors reported that AB*56 was present in mice genetically engineered to develop an Alzheimer’s-like condition, and that it built up in step with their cognitive decline. The team also reported memory deficits in rats injected with AB*56. For years researchers had tried to improve Alzheimer’s outcomes by stripping amyloid proteins from the brain, but the experimental drugs all failed. AB*56 seemed to offer a more specific and promising therapeutic target, and many embraced the finding. Funding for related work rose sharply. But the Science investigation revealed evidence that the Nature paper and numerous others co-authored by Lesne, some listing Ashe as senior author, appeared to use manipulated data. After the story was published, leading scientists who had cited the paper to support their own experiments questioned whether AB*56 could be reliably detected and purified as described by Lesne and Ashe — or even existed. Some said the problems in that paper and others supported fresh doubts about the dominant hypothesis that amyloid drives Alzheimer’s. Others maintained that the hypothesis remains viable. That debate has continued amid the approval of the antiamyloid drug Leqembi, which modestly slows cognitive decline but carries risks of serious or even fatal brain swelling or bleeding.

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