What Caught Our Attention: Thousands of papers have relied on contaminated or wrong cell lines, a problem journals have not been particularly proactive in addressing. So far, only a few studies have been retracted for using misidentified cell lines. Continue reading Caught Our Notice: Journals still (slowly) purging archives of bad cell line studies
Although most researchers realize too many are using misidentified cell lines in their work, they may be shocked to see the scope of the problem: Approximately 32,755 articles report on research that relied on misidentified cells, according to a new report in PLoS ONE. And even though more people may be aware of the problem, it hasn’t slowed it down: Most of the papers the authors flagged were written after 2000, and the number of new publications relying on misidentified cells continues to grow. We’ve tackled the issue — a 2015 poll of RW readers showed most believed the papers that report data from misidentified cell line should be either retracted or corrected, and our co-founders have recommended journals at least post “expressions of concern.” We spoke with the authors of the latest paper (also covered by The Scientist), Serge Horbach and Willem Halffman at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands.
Retraction Watch: You estimate more than 32,000 articles that used misidentified cells. That’s a very large number, to say the least — were you surprised at the scope of the problem?
Researchers in China have retracted a 2016 paper exploring the replication behaviors of a retrovirus, after discovering that the key results could not be reproduced — possibly because their cell cultures had been contaminated.
The authors also cite a disagreement with a colleague, who they say contributed to the work but does not want to be listed as an author.
Here’s the retraction notice for “Nuclear import of prototype foamy virus transactivator Bel1 is mediated by KPNA1, KPNA6 and KPNA7,” published in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine: Continue reading Authors pull virus replication paper after they cannot replicate results
Nearly 50 years ago, researchers in Uppsala, Sweden used cells from a patient to establish a brain tumor cell line that has become widely used. But a new study suggests that the most common source of that cell line used by scientists today may not be derived from that original patient’s tumor, raising questions about the results obtained in hundreds of studies.
In a new paper out today in Science Translational Medicine, Bengt Westermark, of Uppsala University, and colleagues describe what they found when they performed a forensic DNA analysis comparing the widely used version of the cell line to the original. The findings are consistent with those of other analyses in which cell lines turn out not to be what researchers thought, a problem we’ve focused some attention on.
Here’s an email interview with Westermark about the findings and their implications: Continue reading Widely used brain tumor cell line may not be what researchers thought it was
According to the notice in Molecular Biology of the Cell (MBoC), the contamination occurred by “unknown means” in the senior authors’ laboratory, who told us the mistake was a difficult one to catch. He added that they discovered the problem after other researchers published conflicting results.
He also noted that the contaminated cell lines were not used for experiments in any other papers.
Here’s the retraction notice, issued on August 1: Continue reading Authors retract study with contaminated cell lines
It’s all too easy to mix up cell lines, so we see plenty of retractions for that reason — and, according to an expert in the area, many more cases lurk uncorrected in the literature.
The retraction notice for “Knockdown of tumor protein D52-like 2 induces cell growth inhibition and apoptosis in oral squamous cell carcinoma” in Cell Biology International explains the authors’ perspective on this case: