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No, Not That Line

One researcher hopes that a 'nudge' will help prevent researchers from using problematic cell lines, Retraction Watch reports.

It's long been known that cell lines aren't always that their labels say they are. In 2014, NPR reported that between 18 percent and 36 percent of cell lines are thought to be contaminated. Amanda Capes-Davis, the chair of the International Cell Line Authentication Committee, and her colleagues made a list of cross-contaminated or otherwise misidentified cell lines in 2015 in a bid to help researchers, and in 2016, a trio of US National Institute of Standards and Technology urged researchers to authenticate their cell lines using STR profiling. Still, cell line contamination has led to a number of retractions.

In a new eLife paper, Capes-Davis and her colleagues mined the test of some 2 million journal articles to gauge whether Research Resource Identifiers — unique reagent and resource identifiers that some journals require — help researchers avoid using problematic cell lines. They found that 8.6 percent of cell lines named in journal articles were on that list, but only 3.3 percent of cell lines in the papers that included RRIDs were on the list, suggesting using RRIDs does help cut down on researchers' use of problematic cell lines.

"We note that while a nudge seems already quite effective, more than 50 percent difference, we do envision that the future will have tools that will warn authors a little more explicitly about cell lines before they publish," co-author Anita Bandrowski from the University of California, San Diego, tells Retraction Watch.