Barinaga, Marcia. "Manic Depression Gene Put in Limbo," Science 246 (17 November 1989),

 

Barinaga, Marcia. "Manic Depression Gene Put in Limbo," Science 246 (17 November 1989),
pp. 886-887.

This is a report of a failure in science: the failure to locate THE manic depression gene. Just a
few years ago, Janice Egeland of Miami reported that she had evidence that a gene was
responsible for manic depression. In a study of the Amish, she thought she found a cause for
depression. There was a deliberation among biologists. Here is a follow-up, an attempted
continuation, which suggests that the initial report was wrong (See Nature, 16 November 1987)

The results today suggest that Egeland and her colleagues were right, given the data they had,
but, in the intervening years the data have changed. The current data include subjects with all the
makers for the defective gene but who are reported to be normal. The very small numbers of
cases are statistically changed by a case or two. The enthusiasm which greeted the 1987
publication cannot be sustained: it was an artifact of the statistics.

Science suggests (and this seems quite an admission for Science) that the researchers may have
learned something from all this: perhaps manic depression is not always caused by a single
factor! Moreover: since "...drastic changes ... can be introduced with just one new diagnosis, it is
vitally important for the results in such a study to be checked and rechecked..." (p. 887)