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Reagents Not Always on Up and Up

Mislabeled or even phony lab supplies are leading some researchers astray, write Retraction Watch's Adam Marcus and Ivan Oransky in a column at Stat News.

While some lab supply issues are due to contamination of cell lines, others are due to errors or even deliberately faked reagents, they say. For instance, Marcus and Oransky note that a recent piece in Nature News reported that counterfeit and diluted reagents have surfaced in China as well as in Europe, Canada, and the US. According to Nature News, counterfeit antibodies have been a particular issue as, for instance, Massachusetts General Hospital's Herbert Lin found that a kit he bought targeted the wrong protein.

At Stat News, Marcus and Oransky add that there are some steps that researchers can take to avoid being burned by using contaminated or counterfeit supplies. For cell lines, they say that the International Cell Line Authentication Committee keeps a list of lines of suspect origin. Additionally, they note that there is a pilot effort to affix barcodes to materials to better trace what's been used in certain experiments.

However, they note that for such a project to work, researchers, companies, and funders have to buy into it. "After all, 'fake it til you make it' is no way to do science," Marcus and Oransky write.

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