The culture of cell culture practices and authentication—Results from a 2015 Survey
Concerns continue to grow regarding irreproducible basic biological and preclinical research.
Accurate documentation of cell line tissue of origin (i.e., identity), sex, and species are critical to ensure the credibility, reproducibility, and translation of data and results from cell culture based experiments. The financial implications of misidentified or contaminated cell lines can be profound; as much as $700 million dollars per year in research that could be at risk.
In order to understand the extent of cell line authentication efforts within the biomedical community, we commissioned an online survey focusing on current cell culture and authentication practices.
The online survey was conducted between April 16 and June 5, 2015, and included members of more than 20 prominent biomedical research societies and organizations. Of 446 total respondents, 73 percent rated themselves as either expert or above average cell-culturists.
More than half of respondents—52 percent—“never” perform authentication or other species-related quality control tests on the cell lines used in their experiments. Moreover, 74 percent never conduct STR (short-tandem repeat) DNA profiling, the accepted standard for authentication. Although respondents were more likely to perform some sterility-related (microbial contamination) quality controls, particularly visual inspections, such inspections will not typically detect mycoplasma bacteria-infected cells.
The top three respondent-identified barriers to performing cell line authentication were cost (61 percent), time (53 percent), and delays in research (35 percent). More troubling is the apparent complacency surrounding the need to authenticate cell lines: 24 percent reported “I don’t see the necessity; I am careful”; 22 percent reported that their laboratory manager or principal investigator is “unaware of or ignores the issue.”
Only 62 percent of respondents received specific training on the problems associated with cell line misidentification (cross-contamination) and mislabeling, and less than one-third were trained on the importance of cell line authentication as a quality control measure.
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