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July 25th, 2011
03:25 PM ET

High-profile longevity study retracted

It sounded like a breakthrough when researchers from Boston University reported that they had identified genes associated with living to 100 or even longer.  The findings, reported in the well-respected journal Science in July 2010, received a great deal of publicity.

But now, after coming under intense criticism, the study authors have retracted their findings because their  results aren't as dramatic as initially thought.

Controversy surrounded the study soon after publication. Newsweek was first to report serious questions from outside experts about the methodology. The issue involved a critical technical aspect of the test and the equipment used to analyze DNA.  The study authors said they re-analyzed the data, with help from an independent laboratory, and resubmitted the results.

However, Science said in a statement that while there is no indication of misconduct, the study no longer merits publication.

In a new statement published in Science, the researchers wrote, "We feel the main scientific findings remain supported by the available data," citing links between specific clusters of genes and longevity, as well as a link between certain gene clusters and specific age-related diseases.   However, they added, "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."

Dr. Thomas Perls, the leader of the research project, told CNN the new paper has been completed and has already been submitted to another journal.  He said he is unable to discuss the specific new findings while the paper is still under review.

Perls and lead author Paola Sebastiani, PhD. discussed the initial controversy here.

Read more from the Boston Globe

CNN Senior Producer Caleb Hellerman contributed to this report.
Follow @CNNHealth on Twitter.


soundoff (73 Responses)
  1. Lincoln

    [sarcasm]
    Wow, a science study that overexaggerated its conclusions. Unheard of!
    [/sarcasm]
    What's unusual is that they got called out on it.

    July 25, 2011 at 15:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • darkages21

      Implying that most science is exaggerated is pretty reactionary. They got called out because that is how the scientific community works. I think you might be guilty of exaggerating (also, the over part is superfluous).

      July 25, 2011 at 17:37 | Report abuse |
    • Mark C

      Yes, you are as guilty of exagerrating as the scientists are. The difference is that nobody cares what YOU have to say.

      July 25, 2011 at 17:40 | Report abuse |
    • Ken

      A) Scientists are usually very quick to point out flaws in a rival's study, so incorrect or flawed studies are debunked all of the time. If a study survives scrutiny, it's probably pretty accurate. You know . . . like gravity, or the germ theory of disease, or evolution.
      B) Knocking science and knowledge just because you don't understand the process or the results is pretty dumb. "Science" as a general concept has been the most successful human endeavor in history. Science has given us airplanes and the personal computer, space travel and hybridized crops. What field has done more for your life?
      C) "Overexaggerate" is redundant. It's like saying "speedrunning" or "defecting with poop." Maybe before moving onto science, you should start with grammar.

      July 25, 2011 at 17:51 | Report abuse |
    • A scientist

      While many anti-science people will use this as an excuse to bash scientists, to me it actually supports the integrity of scientists and the strength of the scientific method. These authors published a study, and when people suggested possible flaws, they went back, reanalyzed the data, admitted the flaws in the original study, and are planning to publish a corrected version.

      Generally, this is how science works - scientists make their best efforts to get the correct answers, and when they discover a flaw in their theory, they re-examine. How many science denialists (for example, the anti-evolution people) can say the same thing - that as they get new evidence, they adjust their views accordingly.

      It is easy for armchair critics to pick on scientists for not always being right. However, it is important to remember that the fundamental job of a scientist is to identify a question that no one in the world knows the answer to, and try to answer it. This is hard (if the answers were obvious, they would already be known), so of course there will be mistakes along the way. All we can hope is that scientists will be honest enough to backtrack and correct these mistakes. They did here (as they usually do), so should be applauded, not condemned.

      July 25, 2011 at 17:58 | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      Perhaps, your ignorant self never learned what PEER REVIEWED means.
      It means, the study is released to other scientists for examination and even repeating any tests performed.
      Hence, why it was initially criticized and finally pulled.
      But, no, science isn't real. It's all hype. Gravity doesn't exist.
      Now, go walk off of a tall building to prove those gravity nut scientists wrong.

      July 25, 2011 at 18:32 | Report abuse |
    • kaycat

      as opposed to what? Religion? Reality TV?

      July 25, 2011 at 18:55 | Report abuse |
    • Al

      That's the beauty of science. When it's wrong, it retracts. If religions did the same, there would be no more religion (but science would still be ticking along).

      July 25, 2011 at 19:09 | Report abuse |
    • mark

      i feel a little more confident in 'the religion of science'. while it doesn't tell me how many bad results are not found, i like to think that all those catty scientists looking for fault in each other really does keep everyone as honest as they can be expected to be. perhaps because their good name and careers are on the line. when gods and corporations lie, there doesn't seem to be any consequence at all.

      July 25, 2011 at 19:11 | Report abuse |
    • ajk68

      Those claiming this vindicates the peer review process are incorrect.
      The fact that in went into print highlights a failure of the peer review process. Articles are peer reviewed before appearing in a journal to avoid such fiascoes.

      July 25, 2011 at 19:22 | Report abuse |
    • DaFactsGuy

      It is perhaps the height of irony that such a wonderful example of how the scientific community and process work in the pursuit of knowledge should be sited as an evidence that science does not work.

      I suppose it is inevitable. Mankind has acquired sufficient knowledge through the application of scientific process that it is beyond what most people can comprehend. As Arthur C Clarke said "any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic". Confronted with magic on a daily basis, most people have no idea how it came to be.

      July 25, 2011 at 19:28 | Report abuse |
    • ajk68 is an idiot.

      @ajk68 -Wow. You must be mentally retarded. How the hell do you think peer review works? Most times, something gets published based on initial studies. THEN, other scientists review the study and attempt to recreate the experiment. Journals are the proving grounds for new research. Once the scientific community reviews the journal, they can either confirm its validity or rip it to shreds.

      Natural selection has failed you. Please rectify this immediately.

      July 25, 2011 at 19:56 | Report abuse |
    • rick

      Actually getting called out on a study is not unusual at all, but since you clearly don't understand how science works it doesn't surprise me that you don't know that. Nice attempt at making up a reality that fits your narrow-mindedness.

      July 25, 2011 at 20:49 | Report abuse |
    • QuestionEverything

      Science is open to abuse everywhere.

      One of the most published hand surgeons in the world, Dr. Thomas Trumble, was recently exposed as fraudulent, calling into question research which had been the basis for hand surgery for a decade. He was forced to resign his position as the University of Washington and as president of the American Society for Surgery of the Hand. But, his research continues to be quoted and used as supporting evidence for treating patients.

      July 25, 2011 at 23:34 | Report abuse |
    • Kris Wood

      Tell me, how many times has the bible been rewritten and adapted now? So when a scientific paper does it...shame shame?

      July 26, 2011 at 04:50 | Report abuse |
    • Skeeve

      ajk68 is indeed an ignorant fool. Do you know what percentage of submitted paper into a given journal gets eventually published? Well let me tell you out of ~ 20 papers I reviewed last year 4 were published.... 2 more were published after very serious reworking....

      July 26, 2011 at 07:07 | Report abuse |
    • iamthefredman

      Shocking ! Science being called out! By other scientists??? WOW! I guess the compainers did not get the benefits of the publishing deal, the talk show circuit, the speeches, so they complained. So who is right? Never believe science. Remember "global warming".? Yeah, that was disproven last winter, too !

      July 26, 2011 at 12:10 | Report abuse |
  2. alanseago

    What is stranger yet is that, according to this article, the first reports of problems came from Newsweek magazine. So much for peer review.

    July 25, 2011 at 17:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • darkages21

      Newsweek is citing outside experts (peers).

      July 25, 2011 at 17:39 | Report abuse |
    • Mark C

      Uh, actually moron, Newsweek was "first to report serious questions from OUTSIDE EXPERTS." In other words, peers.

      July 25, 2011 at 17:39 | Report abuse |
    • Dr. Strangelove

      Obviously these people replying to your comment have no idea what peer reviewed means from a scholarly point of view. Ignorance. Sigh.

      July 25, 2011 at 20:59 | Report abuse |
  3. wendy5

    i take most of what scientist say with a grain of salt; they are all always looking for funding;makes me think they will say anything when they need to

    July 25, 2011 at 18:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • A scientist

      Any scientist who wants to get funding has a vested interest in being accurate in their publications. There is nothing that kills one's future ability to get funding faster than being consistently being proven wrong.

      July 25, 2011 at 18:28 | Report abuse |
    • ThePreacher2

      Sure, except that whether or not they get the funding is most often up to their rivals, who are the reviewers of the grant applications. That means that there is a very rigorous BS filter for what actually gets funded. So scientists who will say anything without good evidence get squat in funding...

      July 25, 2011 at 18:29 | Report abuse |
    • Larry

      When the funding is dependent on getting the right answer you will get what you pay for and not necessarily a valid report. The fault in much of the science world is how the funding is structured. Most scientists have to pay the rent and have become addicted to eating food.

      July 25, 2011 at 18:45 | Report abuse |
    • BradDG

      Easiest way to fight information you find inconvenient is to call the messenger a liar. You don't actually have to come up with your own facts that way.

      July 25, 2011 at 18:58 | Report abuse |
    • Mr. Bones

      Wow, you obviously have a deep understanding of what science is and how it works.

      Oh, wait. I misspelled, "You're the stupidest person ever born." I always do that.

      July 25, 2011 at 21:51 | Report abuse |
    • SB

      Wendy, your post is a statement on the sad state of education. Your entire point of view is so fundamentally flawed that I honestly don't know where to even begin. You, and those who spout similar noise, have entirely missed several very key points about science. It's frustrating to know that people like you have the same right to vote that I do.

      July 25, 2011 at 21:52 | Report abuse |
    • sroelit

      This American Life, a terrific podcast, recently highlighted the trouble science gets in when it gets entangled with power, politics and money–using Penn State University and the Marcellus natural gas controversy as an example. Pretty clear that when funding is at stake, the science is predictable.

      July 25, 2011 at 23:28 | Report abuse |
    • Kris Wood

      Scientists look for FUNDING for things?! WHAT?! PITCHFORKS PEOPLE!! FIRST THE SCIENTISTS, THEN THOSE JERKS WHO TOOK URR JOOOBS

      July 26, 2011 at 04:51 | Report abuse |
    • Benny

      @Mr. Bones
      As a fellow scientist I do not think we need a ";Peer Review" to prove your hypothesis.
      Oh, wait. I misspelled, "You're the Funniest person On This Thread." I too do that repeatedly.
      I salute you sir! Very funny!

      July 26, 2011 at 08:20 | Report abuse |
  4. Poodles

    I'm going to live forever because I don't wash my hands after dropping a load.

    July 25, 2011 at 18:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ThePreacher2

      I hope you don't work with the public.

      July 25, 2011 at 18:30 | Report abuse |
    • Benny

      I'm hungry. Cook me a Big Mac Poodles.

      July 26, 2011 at 08:21 | Report abuse |
  5. qwerty

    In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion.

    Carl Sagan, 1987 CSICOP Keynote Address

    July 25, 2011 at 18:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ajk68

      You must not have very good religious discussions. I have seen lots of discussions where someone has recanted their position. If you want historical examples, look at the various theological arguments within and with the Catholic church. Most notably St. Paul, St. Peter, and St. Augustine. There are later examples in history too.

      July 25, 2011 at 19:34 | Report abuse |
    • ajk68

      I should have said Sagan did not have good religious discussions.

      July 25, 2011 at 19:35 | Report abuse |
    • David

      Yeah, the Catholic church! Oh wait a minute, aren't they the ones who took almost 300 years after Copernicus' death to acknowledge that the earth revolves around the sun, despite all the evidence?

      July 26, 2011 at 04:50 | Report abuse |
  6. Curmodgeon

    Many times in the search for truth and clarity, a study will advance a new and exciting theory. Soon the bandwagon is full to overflowing with supporters, scientists and layfolk alike. Then some small voice from the corners of reason says "Wait a minute." Much scurrying around ensues, words of doubt and dissent abound, morphing into accusation, counter claim and shouts of fraud. Suddenly, the original researcher is cast into scientific outer darkness, the theory debunked and discarded. What fun!

    July 25, 2011 at 19:06 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Religion

      Well if all those snooty scientists would STOP BEING WRONG they wouldn't be ostrasized so much. I mean really! The world is ROUND! I think not! Man Evolved! Obsurd! The Big Bang! Rediculous!

      I will now kneel and speak to an all powerful, supernatural being who said things and they materialized before him. A being who makes women out of ribs and has NEVER been seen by any living creature. He will tell me how I should live my life then I will FORCE this belief upon you and yours! Should you fail to live so, you will die and go to he!!.

      July 26, 2011 at 08:28 | Report abuse |
  7. Kevin

    This is why the process works. It's subject to review and revision.

    Leave absolutes to the religious folks if you must but science is not about absolutes & inflexibility.

    July 25, 2011 at 19:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Jimmyjam048

    Great article. Funny how the anti religious zealots try to use this to point out flaws in religion. Yet by doing so, they make the same error they unjustly accuse religious people of: rejecting a belief that they don't comprehend.

    July 25, 2011 at 19:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ksmary

      Scientific proof requires a lot of 'provable' tests. Religion only requires faith. Scientists often have faith in their religious life, but know the key word is 'faith' and that is unprovable. The majority of scientists are not anti religious, they just accept the fact that faith is unprovable, and scientific facts are provable, no 'faith' needed.

      July 25, 2011 at 20:27 | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      I'm still waiting for any religious zealot to debunk the existance of the Flying Spaghetti Monster by using their own established standards of proof and logic....

      July 25, 2011 at 21:01 | Report abuse |
    • David

      I have enduring faith that Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny truly exist. Yep, faith. That's all I need as my "proof"!

      Sound familiar, religious nuts?

      July 26, 2011 at 04:54 | Report abuse |
  9. Greg Gilbert

    Scientific controversy but not political controversy. Skepticism is good and examining bias and incorrect ways of measuring is part of what science is all about.

    July 25, 2011 at 20:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Another scientist

    As another scientist, I can attest to the fact that a lot of claims made on paper are rather tall. However, most claims can be attributed to genuine naivety. For example, folks studying contact mechanics/friction in the 60's almost but proclaimed they understood the nature of interface friction. They realized their mistake in under 10 years and reassessed their stand.

    Sure, peer review is a great closed loop mechanism, but I meet scientists/engineers daily that make fair exaggerations for funding at an alarming periodicity. However, this particular group wasn't one of the bad ones. They got scrutinized, reanalyzed and admitted their mistake.

    July 25, 2011 at 20:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Martin

    The way I feel is that DNA is not the best thing that will enable you to live until 100. If most people kept their weight under control, drank 5-6 oz of red wine after dinner each night, got a lot of aerobic/strengthening exercise, breathed air every day that was not unhealthy, socially happy, etc: I feel most everyone could possibly live close to 100 unless they get some bad unlucky illness/problem that DNA/other people put on them.

    July 25, 2011 at 20:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • CTYank

      It really only applies to you- "how I feel." That might trigger some study, but until corroborated by provable, repeatable facts, it's just "nothing more than feelings."
      See the difference between subjective and objective reality?

      July 26, 2011 at 05:21 | Report abuse |
  12. Beatrice

    Genes are a fair gift from God. He determines, not we. Mankind needs humility. We all have limited time in this life. Longevity spent selfishly is a real woe. Anyone who made it to adulthood must spend himself for the good of younger generations.

    July 25, 2011 at 21:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Beatrice

    Societies that try to entertain adults always become badly corrosive to everyone. Adults should live doing serious business.

    July 25, 2011 at 21:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. God

    Judgment and self-righteousness generally impede science and faith. Honest self-inventory, open-mindedness, and willingness to look at something from a different perspective may surprise you with the results it yields. Intellectual awareness and spiritual growth. But who needs that?

    July 25, 2011 at 21:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. G D

    Three thoughts. We cannot know everything, but that should not stop us from trying. Try as we might, some things will remain mysteries. God has a plan that he may or may not have shared with each of the commenters claiming to know exactly what His plan is. Go home, do some good for another person and quit worrying about how much time you have left. Live every day as if it is your last and use the talents God has given you to bless others.

    July 25, 2011 at 22:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Robble

    my eleven year old said to me today,"religion is primitive science. it is explanations for the ignorant. now that we have advanced science, we don't need religion."

    what a brilliant child

    July 25, 2011 at 23:30 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Satan

      He's learning well..

      July 25, 2011 at 23:46 | Report abuse |
    • SatanDoesn'tExist

      Give that kid a medal!!!

      July 26, 2011 at 04:55 | Report abuse |
    • GOD

      I made him! I can unmake him!

      July 26, 2011 at 08:34 | Report abuse |
    • GOD

      Ohh wait... No I can't... shucks... Guess I'm not real after all...

      July 26, 2011 at 08:34 | Report abuse |
  17. Robert

    The criticism of this paper was a bit harsh, and the resubmitted paper will support the same conclusion, i.e., that longevity correlates well with genetics.

    July 26, 2011 at 00:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Spock

    This seems to be the story with medicine and medical research–one year something supposedly bad for you suddenly becomes good for you the next year, only to be retracted the following year !

    July 26, 2011 at 01:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. stormsun

    It makes no difference if the study was flawed or if the statistics were misinterpreted. It is a matter of time before the actual mechanism involved in aging is found, and subsequently, the means to mitigate or reverse it. Yet as far as I know, only SF writers are considering the implications of this event, which numerous scientists believe will occur within the next 2-4 decades...if not sooner.

    July 26, 2011 at 01:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. paganguy

    What does this research mean to the average girl or guy? Nothing, absolutely nothing. We don't know what genes we have. When my number comes up and my ticket gets punched, I'll go. Hundred years from now nobody will remember or care.

    July 26, 2011 at 01:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Claudio

      Shore, You could always print the email and send it in a lteetr. Takes more effort but my guess is that someone might actually read it. It wouldnt surprise me if staffers are wiping out large swaths of email as quickly as possible. They might be taking the time to count up the for and against emails but that would be a stretch. I wonder how many emails it took to have them shutdown the system.

      November 16, 2012 at 01:27 | Report abuse |
  21. nonsense

    Why does anybody assume it takes one part of the DNA to determine longevity? The process in the human body must be a lot more complicated than that. This is like changing one brick in a building and expecting it to last a lot longer.

    July 26, 2011 at 01:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Ahmad

      I would iagimne most grants would mention environmental issues related broader impact.My undergrad offers environmental studies concentration in several majors, and for the most part all that means is taking an extra ecology course and a seminar. No wonder people would get confused.

      February 1, 2012 at 05:30 | Report abuse |
    • cwnzfchym

      8puUqY zguvgebppeer

      February 4, 2012 at 05:11 | Report abuse |
  22. fiskenmann

    Probably funded by Boehner and the tea party.

    July 26, 2011 at 01:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. fernace

    I've read so many people being in denial of facts these past few days, reading it about science is not surprising. Funny thing, it usually comes down to religion or politics! Personally, I'm not concerned with longevity, but I think this type of study inevitably unlocks some related topic that might lead to a breakthrough that will change lives! Glad to know they monitor results so closely that even if you have been published, you have to retract your study if facts don't add up! Today I've read many people getting pi.ss.ed., when facts didn't support their fantasy! I suppose that's the difference between science & religion!!

    July 26, 2011 at 03:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kris Wood

      Well, I still firmly believe the earth is flat. The church has never actually confirmed or denied it, they just apologized for smacking around someone who had a different view. So it must be flat.

      July 26, 2011 at 04:54 | Report abuse |
    • CTYank

      Many of us, historically, react very poorly to scientific breakthroughs. Often we see people clinging to the past and fuming at the current. Martin Gardner in "Fads & Fallacies In the Name of Science" catalogs many of these. Some are purely absurd, like the hollow-earthers, but some are simply reactionaries like the antagonists of Newton, then later Einstein. String theory must really set these folks off.
      Searching for lying fools? Easy. Creationists and climate-change deniers are right there, lots of them, for an easy start.

      July 26, 2011 at 05:34 | Report abuse |
  24. yuri pelham

    Biederman

    July 26, 2011 at 05:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. A question

    @QuestionEverything... I do. References please for your comments on Dr. Trumble. So far, I can't find any evidence supporting your assertions.

    July 26, 2011 at 23:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Sandi Butler

    I personally think those of you who are so intent on putting down religion, should TRY reading the Bible rather discussing something they obviously have zero knowledge about it!

    July 27, 2011 at 17:35 | Report abuse | Reply

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