The prevalent scientific theory about Alzheimer’s disease is that it is caused by a protein called beta amyloid, which creates a sticky plaque in the brains of those with the dreaded ailment. But what if that theory is wrong?
The Wall Street Journal Saturday did a fascinating Page One story with the headline “An Outcast Among Peers Gains Traction on Alzheimer’s Cure,” which is about a maverick who doesn’t think that beta amyloid is the culprit in Alzheimer’s.
For years now, flying in the face of most of the scientific community, Dr. Claude Wischik has preached that a protein called tau, “which forms twisted fibers known as tangles inside the brains of Alzheimer’s patients,” The Journal wrote, is the cause of Alzheimer’s.
The story essentially gets into the politics of drug development. As the article points out, for two decades most Alzheimer’s research, to the tune of billions of dollars, targets beta amyloid. But several recent clinical trials, involving pharmaceutical giants such as Eli Lilly & Co., Johnson & Johnson and Elan Corp., have yielded disappointing results.
Wischik thinks his theory that tau is the cause of Alzheimer’s may finally get traction now. He has started a company called TauRx Pharmaceuticals Ltd. that is ready to start testing its own Alzheimer’s drug, according to The Journal. And other drugs makers, such as Roche, are putting money behind developing Alzheimer’s drugs that target tau.
The story points out that there have been several instances when there were scientists “who struggled against a prevailing orthodoxy, only to be proved right.” But it remains to be seen if Wischik will be one of these scientists, it notes.
“Dr. Wischik says he and other tau-focused scientists have been shouted down over the years by what he calls the ‘amyloid orthodoxy,’ a hard-charging group of researchers who believed passionately that beta amyloid was the chief cause of the disease,” The Journal wrote. “‘Science is politics,’ he says. ‘And the politics of amyloid won.'”
Wischik has seen promising results with his anti-tau drug, methylene blue. Two major clinical trials on it will be starting soon, perhaps bringing proof positive of the tau is the key factor responsible for Alzheimer’s.