1. The wastage of funds on research that is flawed and often misleading. Millions of dollars are spent on research every year worldwide.
2. This situation is unnecessary, unacceptable, and the antithesis of fundamental scientific principles.
3. Loss of public support for science. The longer the current situation continues, the more likely it is to damage the credibility of science and risk the loss of public funding.
In the past, there were excuses. Now, standardized simple inexpensive methods are available to detect and eradicate the problem. We must take action now.
What do you think? Are you alarmed? What would you like to do about it?
Now we can talk. I removed the following words from a summary by Roland M. Nardone: "The use of cross-contaminated cell lines in cancer and other biomedical research is at a high level and increasing. Consequently," biomedical (3 times), "using false cell lines, Many scientists believe or claim that they are working with cells derived from one tissue, when they either know or could easily find out that the cells are derived from a different tissue." and "for the use of cross-contaminated cell lines."
The actual text is from Eradication of Cross-Contaminated Cell Lines: A Call for Action:
The use of cross-contaminated cell lines in cancer and other biomedical research is at a high level and increasing. Consequently, a significant proportion of the literature using cell lines is misleading or false, tainting up to 20% of publications. What are the consequences?
1. The wastage of funds on biomedical research that is flawed and often misleading. Millions of dollars are spent on research using false cell lines every year worldwide.
2. Many scientists believe or claim that they are working with cells derived from one tissue, when they either know or could easily find out that the cells are derived from a different tissue. This situation is unnecessary, unacceptable and the antithesis of fundamental scientific principles.
3. Loss of public support for biomedical science. The longer the current situation continues, the more likely it is to damage the credibility of biomedical science and risk the loss of public funding.
In the past, there were excuses for the use of cross-contaminated cell lines. Now, standardized simple inexpensive methods are available to detect and eradicate the problem. We must take action now. (Roland M. Nardone)
Roland M. Nardone has another piece published with the same title but slightly different content. He informs us his call's status in 2006:
An earlier version of this white paper, identical except for the identification of a specific source for conference funds and 2006 references, has been endorsed by the governing boards of the American Society for Cell Biology, the European Society for Tissue Culture, and the Society for in Vitro Biology. At its 2006 meeting, the Board of the American Cancer Research Society endorsed the call for a conference. They also indicated their willingness to play a leadership role in the cancer research community with regard to promoting awareness of the problem. Endorsement for a Call for Action has also been received from the following major cell culture repositories: The American Type Culture Collection, the Coriell Institute, the European Cell Culture Collection, the Japanese Cell Repository Bank, and the German cell bank (DMZB).
You might wonder about the status of this problem in 2009. One, Wikipedia publishes a long list of "cell cultures which have been cross-contaminated and overgrown by other cells." Two, Raheleh Rahbari et al. from University of Leicester presented just in April 2009 a simple, rapid, cheap, and robust assay for detecting HeLa (the most common contaminating cell line) in BioTechniques 46:277-284. They estimate that "18% of cell lines submitted to repositories are contaminated with other cell lines, with HeLa alone being responsible for 25% of these cross contamination events." They recommend this assay to any laboratory performing routine molecular biology. Three, DKFZ researchers Markus Schmitt and Michael Pawlita have reported a new test in Nucleic Acids Research 37(18):e119. The test identifies 37 different cell contamination markers in a single run and is called "Multiplex cell Contamination Test" or McCT.
You might still question why I wrote all this. What motivated me was a recent paper in Nature. Eighteen researchers had written about methionine misacylation, or cells making protein errors in stress-induced defense. I wanted to know more about their experimental fidelity, especially about the HeLa cells they used. I mean if textbooks are found to be incorrect, how correct are the new experiments?
A comprehensive response to Dr. Nardone's call for action is long overdue. If his points are correct, what kind of steps have been taken to change the status quo? Moreover, if he is off somewhat, how is he wrong? Or should his call be modified? One action item I would like to bestow upon Science and Nature is for them to initiate a statement on cell line fidelity in every paper they publish. They could even name the new requirement a hygiene call.