Alzheimer’s and the Complex Scientific Inquiry Process

Posted on March 30, 2022  Comments (1)

This webcast provides an interesting look at the complex scientific inquiry process: An Alzheimer’s Drug That Doesn’t Treat Alzheimer’s?

Medical research is complex. Once we figure out what is most critical and discover effective treatments often the explanations can then make it seem fairly simple. But that process is often decades of efforts that include years of frustration and confusion.

For long term medical impacts we often need to guess at important biomarker indications that may be closely related to health outcomes. But that process often isn’t as easy as it sounds.

Much Alzheimer’s research for the last few decades has focused on amyloid plaque reduction.

A new Alzheimer’s drug has been approved. But should you take it?

Aducanumab (brand name Aduhelm) is a monoclonal antibody engineered in a laboratory to stick to the amyloid molecule that forms plaques in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s. Most researchers believe that the plaques form first and damage brain cells, causing tau tangles to form inside them, killing the cells. Once aducanumab has stuck to the plaque, your body’s immune system will come in and remove the plaque, thinking it’s a foreign invader. The hope and expectation are that, once the plaques are removed, the brain cells will stop dying, and thinking, memory, function, and behavior will stop deteriorating.

I personally do not think the drug should have been approved. Continued research would be fine, but approving an extraordinarily expensive drug without strong evidence of significant positive health outcomes is very poor public policy.

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