Nature Medicine | Spoonful of Medicine

Centenarian genetics study retracted

Researchers from Boston University today issued a retraction notice for a controversial paper published last year that purportedly described a predictive test for living to and beyond 100 years. The July 2010 study identified 150 single nucleotide polymorphisms that clustered into three subgroups. On the basis of these genetic factors, the study authors claimed that they could predict an individual’s likelihood of exceedingly long life with 77% accuracy.

Shortly after being published in Science, the study’s methods drew fire from genomicists and biostatisticians, which prompted the journal’s editors to issue an expression of concern in November. Critics argued that the sample size, at 1,055 centenarians and 1,267 controls, was not large enough to draw robust conclusions, Nature reported at the time. In addition, the researchers analyzed the two experimental groups using slightly different SNP chips and in different labs, which could bias the data, Newsweek quoted Duke genomicist David Goldstein as saying.

The authors responded that they would reanalyze the data immediately in response to the criticisms, many of which were communicated over social media (see Nature’s January 2011 news feature: ‘Peer review: Trial by Twitter’).

In today’s retraction notice, the authors wrote that the analysis still found disease-related genetic factors associated with long life that clustered into subgroups — but they differed enough “from those originally published online to the point of becoming a new report.”

The original paper has been cited 25 times according to Google Scholar.


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