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HSC DNA Sequencing Core Authenticates Cell Lines, Ensuring Scientific Rigor

Sep 12, 2017

The DNA Sequencing Core at the University of Utah Health offers human cell line authentication services to ensure the cell lines are clean and research results are valid. Submitting a small sample for analysis at critical junctures throughout a research project may save valuable research time and money and provide the credentials necessary to ensure that experimental results are published.

Agencies such as the National Institutes of Health have made cell line authentication a requirement in their funding decisions, and prominent journals, like Nature and American Association of Cancer Research publications, require authentication as a pre-requisite for publication.

The DNA Sequencing Core uses Short Tandem Repeats or (STR) analysis to test 24 loci, more than twice the standard analytical practice, to determine the genotype of the cell line. In addition, the Core has joined with the Association of Biomolecular Research Facilities to test cell lines obtained directly from cell line providers. The Core is developing a database that will house the analytical results, which will be publically available to any researcher.

The authentication test conducted by the Core does not check for mycoplasma or other contaminants, but other organizations in the market do provide a test to meet these needs.  

To ensure that valuable research is not lost to contaminated cell lines, the Core recommends that researchers authenticate their cell lines at critical intervals in their research:

  1. When establishing or acquiring a new cell line
  2. Within the first week of passaging a new culture
  3. When starting a new series of experiments
  4. When routinely passaging cell lines
  5. When inconsistent cell behavior or unexpected results are observed
  6. When preparing to publish
  7. When freezing cell stocks to verify purity.

For more than 40 years, prominent scientists have raised the cautionary alarm that cell lines are vulnerable to contamination and misidentification. Contamination may stem from inattentive laboratory practices, infection with mycoplasma, viruses, or other microbes, or unavoidable genetic changes over time. Recent estimates suggest that as much as 20 to 36 percent of the lines are contaminated or misidentified, rendering research results invalid, delaying discovery of new treatments, wasting valuable research time, and losing precious funding dollars.

Visit the DNA Sequencing Core website for more information on sample size, analytical procedures, and cost. Contact Derek Warner by email or 801-581-4736 with any questions.