University of Dundee, MSc Human Clinical Embryology and Assisted Conception - Apply now for September 2018
Page URL: https://www.bionews.org.uk/page_93091

Longevity study short-lived: Science retracts genetics of ageing paper

25 July 2011
Appeared in BioNews 617

The journal Science has retracted a controversial paper on the genetics of extreme longevity by scientists at Boston University. The paper, released online last year, was retracted before publication in print following a formal 'expression of concern' regarding fundamental technical flaws.

The genome wide association study (GWAS), led by biostatistician Professor Paola Sebastiani, analysed the genomes of over 1000 centenarians to determine whether there was a genetic component to long life. DNA sequence analysis was conducted to identify genetic markers called SNPs. The authors claimed to identify 150 SNPs with the potential to determine an individual’s likelihood of living to 100 years or more.

An advanced online publication of the study led to significant criticism of the findings from the scientific community. This culminated in Professor Bruce Alberts, editor-in-chief of Science, publishing a formal 'expression of concern' in November 2010. This critique highlighted numerous technical flaws, including the differential treatment of control and centenarian cohorts used in the study and quality control issues resulting in false positives.

In response to mounting concern, the authors of the study reanalysed the data with the help of an independent, external laboratory. A corrected manuscript was submitted in December 2010 and was once again subject to peer review. However the new submission fell short of the journal's GWAS requirements. Consequently the authors agreed to a retraction, though still stood by their main findings.

'We feel the main scientific findings remain supported by the available data…However, the specific 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', stated the authors of the study.

The editors at Science released an accompanying statement to squash any potential implications of fraudulent activity. 'Science emphasises that there was no misconduct by [Professor] Sebastiani and colleagues. The researchers worked exhaustively to correct the errors in the original paper and we regret that the outcome of the extensive revision and re-review process was not more favorable'.

The current revelations have spurred a debate over the effectiveness of the peer review process, which did not pick up on the flaws of the paper during the first submission. In defence of the process Professor Alberts said: 'I think everybody recognises that the review process is far from perfect. By and large it works, but it doesn't work every single time'.

The retraction notice was published this week in Science.

SOURCES & REFERENCES
Longevity genetics study retracted from Science
Wired |  21 July 2011
Paper on genetics of longevity retracted
Nature News |  21 July 2011
Poor Peer Review Cited In Retracted DNA Study
NPR |  22 July 2011
Researchers withdraw study on long life genes but defend findings and will rewrite it
Washington Post |  21 July 2011
Science Longevity Paper Retracted
Science Insider |  21 July 2011
Sebastiani group retracts genetics of aging study from Science
Retraction Watch |  21 July 2011
RELATED ARTICLES FROM THE BIONEWS ARCHIVE
7 August 2017 - by Rachel Siden 
The original paper promoting a new genome editing technology known as Natronobacterium gregoryi Argonaute (NgAgo) has been retracted...
2 February 2015 - by Dr Victoria Burchell 
A genetic variant may not only help some people live longer, but also changes the way their brain ages, a study suggests....
18 November 2014 - by Sean Byrne 
Scientists are still searching for a key piece of the longevity puzzle, having not found anything remarkable in the genes of 'supercentenarians' - people who live beyond 110 - to explain their long lives...
28 May 2013 - by Richard Fadok 
A group of anonymous scientists has voiced concerns about a controversial stem cell finding published online in Cell earlier this month, causing the journal to begin an investigation...
16 January 2012 - by Maria Botcharova 
Analysis of person's DNA when they are still young could provide important clues about how long they will live, if a study on zebra finches is anything to go by. Research shows that the best indicator of the birds' longevity is the length of a section of genetic code at the end of their chromosomes, called the telomere...
16 January 2012 - by Ruth Saunders 
Stem cell injections have been found to slow down the effects of aging in mice. Researchers have developed a stem cell treatment that significantly slows down aging and increases life span in mice with progeria, a rare genetic disease causing advanced aging...
7 November 2011 - by Oliver Timmis 
Progeria, an extremely rare genetic disease that is commonly used as model for ageing, could be treated with an existing drug...
31 October 2011 - by James Brooks 
A $10 million prize is on offer for the first laboratory to accurately and economically sequence the genomes of 100 people over 100 years old. The Archon Genomics X Prize was originally founded in 2006 and has been modified so that entrants will now race to decode the centenarians' DNA...
24 October 2011 - by George Frodsham 
Researchers have fully sequenced the genome of a woman who lived to be 115 years old. She is the longest-surviving person to have their DNA sequenced and the data may help to unlock the secrets of longer life. Initial investigations suggest that the woman may have had genes which provided protection from diseases such as dementia...
3 October 2011 - by Dr Louisa Petchey 
A gene associated with increased lifespan in a number of organisms is now thought to have no effect on longevity after a second look revealed significant flaws in the original studies on which the assumptions were based. The findings will disappoint the manufacturers of many anti-ageing creams that claim to work by activating the gene, but are unlikely to put a stop to research...
1 August 2011 - by Dr Marianne Kennedy 
The rate at which we age depends on socio-economic status and can be revealed by a DNA test, which will improve assessment of public health measures, say Glaswegian scientists....
18 April 2011 - by Dr Nadeem Shaikh 
A research team from King's College London led by Dr Guangju Zhai has completed a meta-analysis of seven genetic studies looking at the role of the hormone, dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate (DHEAS), and how it may affect the ageing process in humans...
6 December 2010 - by Owen Clark 
Serious doubts have been raised over the validity of a study on the genetic basis on longevity published in the journal Science....
27 September 2010 - by Dr Jay Stone 
Questions continue to be asked after Dr Savio Woo, a gene therapist at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, was forced to retract two more of his papers last week. Dr Woo has retracted six papers this year after two of his post-docs, Li Chen and Zhiyu Li, were accused of scientific misconduct....
12 July 2010 - by Chris Chatterton 
Last week, BioNews reported on a study published in Science that claimed to have identified several gene clusters associated with longevity. The study drew significant media interest but, following the paper's publication, experts have raised concerns about the data...
3 August 2009 - by Sarah Pritchard 
A paper published in the journal Stem Cells and Development announcing the creation of human sperm cells from embryonic stem cells has been withdrawn because it contains plagiarised material....
9 February 2009 - by Rosie Beauchamp 
A new study has found that the gene FOXO3A, previously linked to longevity in Japanese people, plays a similar role in Europeans who live to100 and beyond. The research, carried out at the Christian-Albrechts-University (CAU) in Kiel, compared DNA samples from 388 Germans aged 100 and over...
HAVE YOUR SAY
Log in to add a Comment.

By posting a comment you agree to abide by the BioNews terms and conditions


Syndicate this story - click here to enquire about using this story.