Multiple research teams unable to confirm high-profile Alzheimer’s study

Study authors Karthikeyan Veeraraghavalu, PhD, research associate, assistant professor (seated), and Sangram Sisodia, PhD (photo by Sheheryar Hasnain)

Study authors Karthikeyan Veeraraghavalu, PhD, research associate, assistant professor (seated), and Sangram Sisodia, PhD (photo by Sheheryar Hasnain)

In 2012, a study published in Science reported that a cancer drug called bexarotene could dramatically reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s disease. The drug, which had already been approved by the FDA for treating refractory cutaneous T-cell lymphoma, a type of skin cancer, appeared to reverse the buildup of beta amyloid plaques (Aβ), a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, in the brains of mice and reversed cognitive and memory deficits related to the disease. It seemed too good to be true—and according to researchers at five universities, including Sangram Sisodia, PhD, professor of neurosciences at the University of Chicago, it was. In a technical comment published recently in Science, Sisodia and his colleagues report that they were unable to reproduce the findings of the original study:

Comment co-author Sangram Sisodia, PhD, professor of neurosciences at the University of Chicago, said he and his colleagues were curious about the initial report in 2012.

“We were surprised and excited, even stunned, when we first saw these results presented at a small conference,” said Sisodia. “The mechanism of action made some sense, but the assertion that they could reduce the areas of plaque by 50 percent within three days, and by 75 percent in two weeks, seemed too good to be true.”

“We all went back to our labs and tried to confirm these promising findings,” Sisodia added. “We repeated the initial experiments — a standard process in science. Combined results are really important in this field. None of us found anything like what they described in the 2012 paper.”

Read more on the report in our Newsroom. The report received extensive coverage by Reuters, the Wall Street Journal, US News & World Report, NBC News and others.

About Matt Wood (505 Articles)
Matt Wood is a senior science writer at the University of Chicago Medicine and nonfiction editor for Another Chicago Magazine.
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