For the last 20 years, the “amyloid cascade hypothesis” has dominated research aimed at understanding, preventing, and curing Alzheimer’s disease (AD). During that time researchers have acquired an enormous amount of data and have been successful, more than 300 times, in curing the disease in animal model systems by treatments aimed at clearing amyloid deposits. However, to date similar strategies have not been successful in human AD patients. Hence, before rushing into further clinical trials with compounds that aim at lowering amyloid-beta (Aβ) levels in increasingly younger people, it would be of highest priority to re-assess the initial assumption that accumulation of Aβ in the brain is the primary pathological event driving AD. Here we question this assumption by highlighting experimental evidence in support of the alternative hypothesis suggesting that APP and Aβ are part of a neuronal stress/injury system, which is up-regulated to counteract inflammation/oxidative stress-associated neurodegeneration that could be triggered by a brain injury, chronic infections, or a systemic disease. In AD, this protective program may be overridden by genetic and other risk factors, or its maintenance may become dysregulated during aging. Here, we provide a hypothetical example of a hypothesis-driven correlation between car accidents and airbag release in analogy to the evolution of the amyloid focus and as a way to offer a potential explanation for the failure of the AD field to translate the success of amyloid-related therapeutic strategies in experimental models to the clinic.
Keywords: Alzheimer’s disease AD, Amyloid Beta Aβ, Amyloid precursor protein APP, Reelin, Neuroinflammation, Neurodegeneration, Oxidative stress, Synaptic plasticity, Acute-phase reaction