22 July 2011. Researchers are retracting a paper that was published in Science last year and covered by Alzforum. Thomas Perls and colleagues at Boston University School of Medicine had reported genetic variants that predicted exceptional longevity (see ARF related news story). Part of their analysis relied on a genomewide association study (GWAS) based on the Illumina 610-Quad Array genotyping platform. As explained in a statement released by the journal, the researchers subsequently learned of unpublished data from other research groups questioning the accuracy of the Array over a subset of single nucleotide polymorphisms. First author Paola Sebastiani and colleagues corrected the data and resubmitted to Science. After peer review, editors concluded that the new data did not meet the journal’s standards for GWAS studies. The authors then agreed to the retraction, which appears in today's issue of the journal.
The Science statement makes it clear that there was no misconduct on behalf of the authors. Does this mean other studies using the Illumina 610-Quad Array brought into question? Geneticists contacted by Alzforum said that was unlikely. There are issues with all arrays that can be controlled by rigorous quality control and reliable replication, they said. One of the standards cited by Science as being necessary for publication of GWAS is inclusion of a reliable replication sample that supports the initial observations. The authors claim that the main scientific findings are supported by the new analysis, but that the specific details are substantially changed, and they plan to publish elsewhere.
The retraction made headlines in the national media today with a piece by Joe Palca on National Public Radio, citing initial poor peer review as a reason for the retraction. In a comment to Alzforum on the original paper, John Hardy, a geneticist at University College London, wrote that the study was underpowered and predicted it would be unreliable apart from variations with large effect sizes.—Tom Fagan.
Sebastiani P, Solovieff N, Puca A, Hartley SW, Melista E, Andersen S, Dworkis DA, Wilk JB, Myers RH, Steinberg MH, Montano M, Baldwin CT, Perls TT. Genetic Signatures of Exceptional Longevity in Humans.
Science 22 July, 2011; 333:404. Abstract