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Authors retract study on genetics of old age

Octavio Orduño, 103, goes for his daily cycle ride in Long Beach
Octavio Orduño, 103, goes for his daily cycle ride in Long Beach

By Toni Clarke

BOSTON (Reuters) - The authors of a high-profile study on genetic patterns tied to old age have retracted it after a piece of equipment used to analyze the genes was found to produce incorrect results, the journal Science said.

The study, published a year ago in Science, showed researchers to have found a pattern of genes that predicted, with greater accuracy than ever, who might live to be 100 or older, even if they had other genes linked with disease.

The researchers, led by Paola Sebastiani and Dr. Thomas Perls at Boston University, studied more than 1,000 people who lived to be 100 or older and matched them to 1,200 other people to identify genetic patterns more common in the 100-year-olds using a technique known as genome-wide association.

The study showed that the longest-lived people had many of the same genes linked with diseases as everyone else. Their old-age genes appeared to cancel out the effects of the disease genes.

To identify the genetic markers, known as single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs, the researchers used a number of different genotyping platforms, including one called the Illumina 610-Quad array made by Illumina Inc.

Soon after the paper was published by Science, the researchers learned that the Illumina chip had been shown in unpublished studies by other investigators to produce incorrect results.

A statement released by Science on Thursday said that it published a notice to its readers on July 21, 2010, alerting them that the authors were reanalyzing their data to determine the extent to which the genotyping errors had affected the study's results. The authors repeated the statistical analysis using different types of gene chips. They submitted their results to Science in December.

Science said that although the authors remain confident about their findings, Science has concluded that a paper built on the corrected data would not meet the journal's standards for genome-wide association studies.

The authors therefore agreed to retract their paper. Science said that there was no misconduct by the researchers, who "worked exhaustively to correct the errors in the original paper." The journal said "we regret that the outcome of the extensive revision and re-review process was not more favorable."

(Reporting by Toni Clarke, editing by Matthew Lewis)

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