How an outsider bucked prevailing Alzheimer’s theory, clawed for validation – STAT

Robert Moir is a neurobiologist, working at General Hospital. He needed federal grants to put his research proposal to the test. He did not anticipate the furor his proposal would generate.

Beta-amyloid, long agreed on by scientists to be a strong indicator of Alzheimer’s was at the heart of Moir’s proposal. He proposed that microbes in the brain might be the undiscovered reason for the presence of beta-amyloid. Moir’s data was already published and showed great promise, but funding was not forthcoming. Only two of his three required evaluations gave him good scores. Moir’s fate is consistent with the usual path of researchers trying to get new drugs to Alzheimer’s sufferers.

Beta-amyloid research has been going for decades. It has become regarded almost as dogma that Alzheimer’s is caused by sticky plaques. Plaque elimination was supposed to be the way to go.  Moir’s ground-breaking premise was based on the assumption that the plaques don’t cause the disease. Rather, they are the brain’s last defence against the infesting microbes.

Although Moir’s proposal was turned down in June, he remains hopeful. Moir received an an email in October, 2018, from the National Institute of Health, inviting him to resubmit his proposal.

Key Takeaways:

  • A General Hospital neurobiologist, Robert Moir, needed government funding for his Alzheimer’s research project.
  • Upon seeking input from fellow scientists, as to his proposal’s merit, Moir encountered highly polarized views.
  • Moir’s proposal conjectured that beta amyloid, a long-known Alzheimer’s marker, might be the result of microbes in the brain.

“Still, there were no takers for their paper, and Moir was publishing little else — a potential death spiral in a publish-or-perish era.”

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