Northern Beaches Mums Group
Northern Beaches Mums Group

Researchers find cause and cure for Alzheimer?s disease, or have they? Beware of what you read.

There is a long tradition of reporting science. This is achieved through the popular means of the times, which traditionally included newspapers, science journals and magazines, and more recently via the internet. However, it appears that the accuracy when reporting science is becoming unreliable.

A journalistic code-of-conduct attempts to ensure accuracy in reporting the facts. However, journalism has a history of distorting information and misrepresenting facts to tell a story to gain popular appeal. There is also a phenomenon called ?Clickbait?, which refers to the use of attention-grabbing headlines, by-lines and imagery that media outlets use to attract viewers and readers.

Because of the tabloidisation and commercialisation of internet news this phenomenon has become commonplace and this now includes scientific reporting, where science journalists often will cherry pick and distort information to sell their version of the story.

Unfortunately, science journalists that reports on dementia research also suffer from clickbait. An excellent example appeared on an Australian news website Titled ?Researchers find cause and cure for Alzheimer?s disease?, this headline is casually based on the primary source that reports the results of a longitudinal drug study?.. in a small number of laboratory mice.

The primary source is titled:- ?Arginine Deprivation and Immune Suppression in a Mouse Model of Alzheimer?s Disease? which is a 13 paged scientific report that was published in the Journal of Neuroscience in April 2015.

In it scientists suggest a ?possible? new drug treatment for Alzheimer?s disease with the use of difluoromethylornithine (DFMO) to block the uptake of an amino acid that immune cells require to function.

Contrary to the media headline suggesting a cure for Alzheimer?s disease, the primary source suggests a possible alternative that ?could? and ?may? explain the persistent loss of neurons in ?some? humans with Alzheimer?s disease.

What this teaches us is that we cannot necessarily believe what we read, hear and/or see regarding the reporting of dementia in the media. We need to continue to carry out independent investigation, by sourcing the original research material, allow us to confirm or dismiss the journalist?s claim.

Tim England is a Dementia Care Specialist and Educator who hosts regular public education seminars on dementia.

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