Researchers retract paper about gene groups predicting old age
The authors of a widely reported study that offered an early glimpse into factors leading to long life are withdrawing the paper because of problems with some of the data they used.
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The authors of a widely reported study that offered an early glimpse into factors leading to long life are withdrawing the paper because of problems with some of the data they used.
The study, published last July in the journal Science, said that by looking at genetic markers the researchers were able to determine with 77 percent accuracy which gene groups came from people older than 100.
The team looked at the genomes of 1,055 Caucasians born between 1890 and 1910 and compared them with 1,267 people born later. They called the results an early step to understanding the pathways that lead to surviving into old age.
The research team, led by Paola Sebastiani and Thomas Perls of Boston University, reports in Thursday's edition of Science that one of the instruments they used to study genes caused some false positive findings, and they have reanalyzed the results.
"We feel the main scientific findings remain supported by the available data," the researchers said.
However, they added: "Details of the new analysis change substantially from those originally published online to the point of becoming a new report. Therefore, we retract the original manuscript and will pursue alternative publication of the new findings."
In an accompanying statement, the journal said that while the researchers remain confident about their findings: "Science has concluded on the basis of peer-review that a paper built on the corrected data would not meet the journal's standards for genome-wide association studies."
The editors of Science stressed that "there was no misconduct by Sebastiani and colleagues."
Science publishes about 800 articles a year, of which three to five are eventually retracted.
The original study, which received broad media coverage, said 150 genetic variants predictive of longevity had been identified among New England centenarians and that a test based on those variants could predict who would live to extreme old age.
The study generated criticism immediately, as geneticists questioned its method and conclusions, and said it should not have been published in a top journal.
Material from The Seattle Times archive is included in this report.
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