Dear Bloggers: Thousands of published studies you cite and praise are wrong, useless, irrelevant, deceptive—and the medical journals know it, and they’re doing nothing useful about it.
The issue? Cell lines. These cells are crucial for lab research on the toxicity of medical drugs, and the production of proteins. Knowing exactly which cell lines are being studied is absolutely necessary.
And therein lies the gigantic problem.
Statnews.com has the bombshell story (July 21, 2016):
“Recent estimates suggest that between 20 percent and 36 percent of cell lines scientists use are contaminated or misidentified — passing off as human tissue cells that in fact come from pigs, rats, or mice, or in which the desired human cell is tainted with unknown others. But despite knowing about the issue for at least 35 years, the vast majority of journals have yet to put any kind of disclaimer on the thousands of studies affected.”
“One cell line involved are the so-called HeLa cells. These cancerous cervical cells — named for Henrietta Lacks, from whom they were first cultured in the early 1950s — are ubiquitous in labs, proliferate wildly — and, it turns out, contaminate all manner of cells with which they come into contact. Two other lines in particular, HEp-2 and INT 407, are now known to have been contaminated with HeLa cells, meaning scientists who thought they were working on HEp-2 and INT 407 were in fact likely experimenting on HeLa cells.”
“Christopher Korch, a geneticist at the University of Colorado, has studied the issue. According to Korch, nearly 5,800 articles in 1,182 journals may have confused HeLa for HEp-2; another 1,336 articles in 271 journals may have mixed up HeLa with INT 407. Together, the 7,000-plus papers have been cited roughly 214,000 times, Science reported last year.”
“And that’s just two cell lines. All told, more than 400 cell lines either lack evidence of origin or have become cross-contaminated with human or other animal cells at some point in their laboratory lineage. Cell lines are often chosen for their ability to reproduce and be bred for long periods of time, so they’re hardy buggers that can move around a lab if they end up on a researcher’s gloves, for example. ‘It’s astonishingly easy for cell lines to become contaminated,’ wrote Amanda Capes-Davis, chair of the International Cell Line Authentication Committee, in a guest post for Retraction Watch. ‘When cells are first placed into culture, they usually pass through a period of time when there is little or no growth, before a cell line emerges. A single cell introduced from elsewhere during that time can outgrow the original culture without anyone being aware of the change in identity’.” …