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The ghosts of HeLa: How cell line misidentification contaminates the scientific literature

While problems with cell line misidentification have been known for decades, an unknown number of published papers remains in circulation reporting on the wrong cells without warning or correction. In this article, published in PLOS ONE, the authors provide an estimate of how many scientific articles are affected by this issue. They found 32,755 articles reporting on research with misidentified cells, in turn cited by an estimated half a million other papers. It is interesting to note, that the contamination of the literature is not decreasing over time and is not restricted to countries in the periphery of global science.
Based on these results, it can be concluded that any attempts to stop misidentification of cell lines have proven to be insufficient so far. The contamination of the literature calls for a reasonable notification system, warning users and readers to interpret affected papers with appropriate care.

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