updated 3/6/2008 4:08:31 PM ET 2008-03-06T21:08:31

A Nobel laureate and her co-authors on a 2001 paper on the sense of smell have retracted the study, saying they had discovered problems in the data and were unable to duplicate their findings.

Linda Buck shared the 2004 Nobel Prize in medicine for her work on smell. It was not immediately clear how important the retracted research, done in mice, was to the body of work that led to her Nobel.

Buck and her co-authors said that apart from being unable to reproduce the reported results, they'd found inconsistencies between the published 2001 paper and the original data on which it was based.

"We have therefore lost confidence in the reported conclusions," they wrote in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

The paper reported details of how the nervous system of the mouse carries odor signals from the nose to a particular region of the brain.

Buck, who did the work at Harvard Medical School, is now at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. She did not immediately respond to requests for an interview.

But she told the journal Nature, which reported the development in its news section, that data inconsistencies appeared in figures contributed to the paper by another author, Zhihua Zou. Zou was also at Harvard when the work was done.

In a statement, Harvard Medical School said it is reviewing the retraction.

Zou is now at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. A spokeswoman there said Zou would not speak to reporters. A statement from the UT center said Zou agreed to join in the retraction but was disappointed.

"He is currently reviewing files and more than 1,000 slides to assist in the review by Harvard University of the original experimental work," the statement said. "Dr. Zou has not admitted any wrongdoing and remains confident in the published results."

Buck shared the Nobel Prize with Richard Axel of Columbia University. They were honored for discovering odor-sensing proteins in the nose and tracing how the nervous system delivers odor information to the brain.

The University of Tokyo’s Hitoshi Sakano, an expert on olfactory neurons who did not play a role in Buck’s research, told Nature that the retraction would probably have only a minor effect on the field. Other researchers have corroborated some of the paper's results using other techniques, he said. contributed to this report.

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