A controversial paper that purported to show that the enzyme NgAgo could be harnessed as a gene-editing tool has been retracted, according to Retraction Watch.
In the paper, which was published in Nature Biotechnology in May 2016, researchers from Hebei University of Science and Technology reported that NgAgo might be able replace Cas9 as a genome-editing endonuclease.
However, other researchers soon ran into difficulties trying to replicate the researchers' work, raising questions about its reproducibility. Last November, a team of 20 researchers reported in Protein & Cell that they were unable to get the approach to work in a range of cells and organisms in a number of different labs. Later in November, Nature Biotechnology appended an expression of concern to the paper because of those reproducibility concerns, Retraction Watch notes.
Now, the team led by Hebei's Chunyu Han has retracted the paper. "We are retracting our study because of the continued inability of the research community to replicate the key results in Figure 4, using the protocols provided in our paper," the researchers say in the retraction notice.
In an editorial, Nature Biotechnology writes that this reflects the importance of deliberate post-publication peer review. "[W]hen it comes to biology, answers are often not definitive. And when it comes to replication studies, the one thing we know is that it takes time," it says. "In the case of NgAgo, the time has come and the data have spoken."
Nature News adds that neither the Hebei-led team nor Novozymes, which is working with the researchers, have given up hope. "We continue to investigate the reasons for this lack of reproducibility with the aim of providing an optimized protocol," Han and his colleagues say in the retraction notice.