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Peter Larsen watched a discouraging cycle of pharmaceutical companies touting a new treatment for Alzheimer’s only to be followed by a failed drug trial. So he considered another approach.

The Duke University biologist, who studies mouse lemurs that have symptoms resembling Alzheimer’s, co-authored a paper with a Duke neurologist that considers whether the science behind failed Alzheimer’s drugs incorrectly equated the buildup of amyloid plaques — a waxy protein inside the brain — with a cause of the memory-destroying disease rather than a symptom. Called the “amyloid hypothesis,” this line of thinking has been called into question with the recent failures of drugs targeting amyloid.

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