SEP 08, 2016 10:11 AM PDT

Commonly Used Cell Line no Longer Like Original

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch
Cell lines are a critical part of biomedical research, used in many fields and manipulated in seemingly endless ways. They are immortalized, and basically can be cultured such that they will reproduce endlessly. In recent years, it’s come to the attention of researchers that many widely distributed and utilized lines are no longer like the original source of cells. To what extent can we trust results obtained from cell lines that do not resemble the source, and how well characterized was that source to begin with? These are becoming questions of critical importance to research at large. For more about cell line authentication, the video below has a primer, in which John Masters, Professor of Experimental Pathology, University College London emphasizes its importance.
 


A new paper published in Science Translational Medicine and led by Bengt Westermark has attempted to tackle these questions with regard to a very common and widely used cell line in cancer research, specifically one called U87MG. A special feature of this paper is that the team responsible for the work is performing it in the same laboratory that developed the line nearly 50 years ago, in 1968. The authors noted that this particular line has been utilized in about 200 studies that were published just in 2015, likely making it one of the most popular cell lines ever created.

What the researchers learned is a little distressing, especially for laboratories that work with the line, but maybe not an unmitigated disaster. Using the same kind of DNA fingerprinting used in forensic analysis, the investigators found that the line is still very likely representative of human glioblastomas, as was the source, based on a comparison of the genetic signature of U87MG to cancer cell lines. However, the genetic profile of the cells is different from what it was originally.

That forensic analysis is based on short tandem repeats, or STRs that tend to vary widely. That individuality means they make for very good identifiers. An explanation of that process is seen in the video below. In this work, the research team fond that twelve of fourteen STR markers were different when comparing the U87MG to its first source. The team suggests this could be due to contamination or some kind of mix-up.
 


The researchers suggest that to avoid these issues, not only is cell line authentication important, but scientists should move to glioma cell lines that have been verified and propagated in the ideal conditions that maintain their characteristics. Some cell lines are altered by the conditions in which they are grown, as is the case for gliomas. The investigators advocate for avoiding more ubiquitous and old cell lines that have been widely used and distributed over many years.

Many research journals including Nature publications, aware of this problem, have begun to require cell line authentication as part of the peer-review process. It's even become a commonly available service. Here, however, the researchers emphasize that such identification is only worthwhile if the origin of the line was well characterized. They posit that the cell line must be corroborated by a DNA profile that verifies that the cells match the tissue they intend to represent.

Sources: Science Translational Medicine, AAAS/Eurekalert!
 
About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on over 30 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 70 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
APR 20, 2021
Clinical & Molecular DX
Stressed Out Pregnant Mothers More Likely to Have Girls
APR 20, 2021
Stressed Out Pregnant Mothers More Likely to Have Girls
Scientists from the University of Granada used hair samples to monitor cortisol in a cohort of over 100 pregnant women a ...
MAY 04, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
A Potential Weakness in SARS-CoV-2 is Caught on Video
MAY 04, 2021
A Potential Weakness in SARS-CoV-2 is Caught on Video
You can see the spike protein of the virus in action in this video.
MAY 06, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Improved Genetic Technologies Find Elusive Genetic Mutations
MAY 06, 2021
Improved Genetic Technologies Find Elusive Genetic Mutations
Some genetic diseases are caused by inborn errors - genetic mutations that we're born with and that end up in every cell ...
MAY 09, 2021
Microbiology
Bacteria Can Read Genes Forwards or Backwards
MAY 09, 2021
Bacteria Can Read Genes Forwards or Backwards
One of the most basic processes in life in the creation of proteins from mRNA molecules, which are transcribed from DNA. ...
MAY 10, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
DNA Supercoiling is Found to Play a Role in Gene Expression
MAY 10, 2021
DNA Supercoiling is Found to Play a Role in Gene Expression
A cell has many ways to control gene expression, one of which is the structure of the genome itself; active genes have t ...
MAY 24, 2021
Cardiology
Heart Organoids with a Contracting Chamber are Created
MAY 24, 2021
Heart Organoids with a Contracting Chamber are Created
Scientists that study human disease have long had to rely on animal models or cell culture platforms in which cells grew ...
Loading Comments...