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Noisy Signal

Researchers may have wasted years pursuing depression gene leads generated through candidate gene studies, writes Ed Yong at the Atlantic.

He notes that a new study calls into question the associations between 18 candidate genes, including SLC6A4, and depression. Researchers led by the University of Colorado, Boulder's Matthew Keller reported in the American Journal of Psychiatry earlier this month that the links between these genes and depression were likely false positives based on their analysis of large population-based and case-control samples.

But Yong adds this isn't the first time issues have been raised about candidate gene studies, as Keller tells him that there have been raised eyebrows about the approach since the 1990s. Some of the differences in results were attributed to variations in the populations studied, and the research into candidate genes continued, Yong writes.

"We're told that science self-corrects, but what the candidate-gene literature demonstrates is that it often self-corrects very slowly, and very wastefully, even when the writing has been on the wall for a very long time," the University of Bristol's Marcus Munafò tells Yong.