Longevity study contains flaws, geneticists say

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A recent study in the journal Science, which found that centenarians likely share a particular set of genetic variants, had errors and its conclusions are suspect, a group of geneticists says.

The original study from researchers at Boston University sampled more than 1,000 centenarians, and discovered roughly 150 genetic variants that they said could predict extreme longevity in a person with up to 77% accuracy. (McKnight's, 7/6/10) Some geneticists have called the study into question, citing methodological and technical inconsistencies, according to a Newsweek report.

A chip that was used at the beginning of the study to analyze DNA was taken off the market halfway through the research period. Scientists then switched to a different piece of equipment, which analyzes DNA in a different way, according to Newsweek. Geneticists have also criticized the editorial review process in the journal Science, which published the study, Newsweek reported.

Though any potential discrepancies that may have been caused by the equipment switch could have been corrected by re-running the tests on the newer equipment, that was not done, the geneticists note in their objection to the study. One geneticist from Duke University said it is “unlikely indeed that the findings in the Science paper are correct, or even mostly correct,” The New York Times reported. The paper's authors have defended the study, noting that the technical errors would not affect the overall results of the study, according to Newsweek.