Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Cell Culturists….Are your human cells authenticated?

by Dr. Ray Nims

Until fairly recently, it has been common practice to authenticate human cell cultures using phenotypic status (e.g., receptor or protein expression) and animal species of origin testing. This level of authentication is better than none, but it is not sufficient to unambiguously identify a human cell culture. The result has been that we are still hearing about cases of misidentified human cells being used for biomedical research.

There are now methods available that are capable of rapidly and unambiguously identifying human cell lines, tissues, and cell preparations to the individual level. The recent demonstration of the potential utility of molecular technologies such as short tandem repeat (STR) and single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) profiling for cell authentication has provided the impetus for development of a new standardized method for human cell authentication.

To this end, an ATCC Standards Development Organization workgroup with international representation has spent the past two years developing a consensus standard for the Authentication of Human Cell Lines through STR Profiling. The forthcoming Standard will provide guidance on the use of STR profiling for authenticating human cells, tissue, and cell lines. It will contain methodological detail on the preparation and extraction of the DNA, guidance on the appropriate numbers and types of loci to be evaluated and on interpretation and quality control of the results. Associated with the standard itself will be the establishment of a public STR profile database which will be administered and maintained by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI). The database primarily will contain STR profiles of commonly used cell lines.

                                            STR Profiling of Hela Cells

 An announcement that the Standard is now available for public 45-day review, comment, and vote was published in the October 22, 2010 issue of the ANSI newsletter Standards Action.

The benefits of the Standard will depend on the degree to which it is adopted and followed in the biomedical research and development and biopharmaceutical  communities. Taking a broader view, it is hoped that funding agencies and journals will begin to use such authentication standards as important considerations for funding or publishing research employing human cells. The quality and validity of funded and published research should benefit greatly as a result of the reduction in frequency of use of misidentified human cells.

The deadline for comments is December 6, 2010. There is still time to review the draft Standard and to voice your opinions and concerns.

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