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In the wake of disappointing results this week for yet another experimental Alzheimer’s drug, scientists who have toiled for decades to understand the devastating disease expressed frustration and even anger that their field has not made more progress toward a cure.

“Our field desperately needs new therapies,” Dr. David Knopman, an Alzheimer’s expert at the Mayo Clinic, said at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in Toronto, where biotech company TauRx reported the failure of its drug candidate. “In defense, our field is still young,” Knopman added — a justification that dismayed some of his colleagues.


To a growing number of scientists, the problem isn’t that there’s been too little time to make meaningful progress against a hugely complicated disease that strikes an organ unrivaled for its complexity. It’s that the field has made many missteps, that its leaders stifled research that deviated from the dominant theory of what caused Alzheimer’s, and that it was too easy to count as progress journal papers rather than advances that help patients.

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  • “The idea that Alzheimer’s is caused by sticky clumps of protein called amyloid plaques, which destroy the synapses between brain neurons, dates to the 1980s” I thought Alois Alzheimer discovered the plaques in an autopsy of his patient, Augusta D, in 1904.

  • The Salk Institute for Biological Studies reported in July 2016 that Cannabis THC completely eliminated Alzheimer’s amyloid plaques and inflammation from lab human neurons in July 2016. Other research has shown that Cannabis increases brain derived neurotrophic factor BDNF. This is the most promising research development for all of the neurodegenerative disorders – AD, PD, ALS and MS. However, due to Cannabis being a Schedule I substance under the CSA, the clinical trials have bureaucratic barriers that no one is challenging. Why is our medical community such cowards about speaking out and challenging this stupid law?

  • Great article. This is a powerful message for other fields struggling to find novel therapeutics. Also, reading “The way the system works at my alma mater [NIH]” is that the outside scientists who advise the agency “tend to fund things they know about and have been working on,” he said. “It’s very conservative, and the system discourages innovation. Advancement in the academic hierarchy depends on conforming, not breaking the rules.” is exactly what is driving a lot of bright, talented, young scientists away from academia. The ideas of “collaboration” and “innovation” in academic research are mostly a myth.

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