Fearing “stigmatization,” patient’s father seeks retraction of paper on rare genetic mutation

Retraction Watch – The father of a boy with a rare genetic mutation has accused a scientist of exploiting his child by proclaiming the defect a “genetic syndrome” and naming it after herself.

At an impasse with scientists investigating, publicizing, and interpreting his son’s condition, the father seems willing to use any leverage he can muster to remove the “syndrome” entry in an online genetic disease database. Based solely on an email he obtained from the database director, the father became convinced that if the paper underpinning the entry were retracted, the syndrome would go down with it. So earlier this year, he withdrew his consent and asked the journal that published the paper for a retraction, based on improper patient consent. He has also threatened to lob accusations of research misconduct at the paper’s last author.

Marc Pieterse, of The Netherlands, is the father of Vincent, a teenager who has a mutation in the RPS23 gene that has only been found in one other person, so far. In March, an international team of researchers published a paper on Vincent’s RPS23 mutation in the American Journal of Human Genetics (AJHG), linking it to defective ribosomes, organelles involved in protein synthesis.

One of the scientists Pieterse engaged several years ago is Alyson MacInnes, a rare disease researcher at the University of Amsterdam’s Academic Medical Center. She is last author of the AJHG paper and the person whose name is now connected to an entry in the Online Mendelian Inheritance in Man (OMIM) database. MacInnes told Retraction Watch that, contrary to what Pieterse claims, she played no direct role in naming the syndrome; OMIM confirmed this account.

Read more at Retraction Watch.

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