Immortalized or continuous cell lines are invaluable tools in basic and preclinical research. However, the widespread use of misidentified cell lines is a serious threat to scientific reproducibility. Based on the experiences of mandatory cell line authentication at the International Journal of Cancer (IJC), Nicole Y Souren and colleagues provide an overview of the issues pertinent to misidentified cell lines and discuss available solutions.
The authors also summarize the lessons learned, revealing that at least 5% of the human cell lines used in manuscripts considered for peer review are misidentified. About 4% of the considered manuscripts are rejected for severe cell line problems, and most are subsequently published in other journals. In order to diminish such malpractice and its consequences for the scientific record, the authors postulate that strict multi-layered quality control is essential. Besides journals and publishers, scientists, research institutions, and funders are encouraged to take action on the matter and revise their respective policies. Hence, the authors provide concrete recommendations on introducing regular authentication schemes and staff training, and discuss future steps for enhancing good cell culture practices.