Before reading chapter five, “Trusting the Untrustworthy” from Richard Harris’ Rigor Morris, I had absolutely no idea about how inaccurate cell lines and antibodies could be. Cell lines can be misidentified, contaminated and redundant, causing researchers and scientists to stray away from any correct conclusions and end up with false ones. Scientists can be experimenting with one type of cell only to discover that the cell they are working with had been mislabeled and their whole experiment ends up being completely wrong.
The thing that really surprised me about cell lines was that melanoma cells had been misidentified and labeled as breast cancer cells. This is very troubling because when scientists are using melanoma cells for breast cancer studies they are not getting any closer to finding a cure for breast cancer. “Over the years, hundreds upon hundreds of journal publications reported breast cancer experiments involving MDA-MB-435, as scientists hoped they were homing in on better treatment or even a cure. It turned out that MDA-MB-435 was an imposter.” (pg.100) Scientists had
done so much research on this one cell line only to discover that it was not in fact a breast cancer cell and it had nothing to do with breast cancer cell lines at all. By using a powerful technique scientists could tell one type of cancer from another by looking at the cell’s genetic patterns. Melanoma and Breast Cancer cell lines may have had one genetic pattern in common but that was all. “Melanoma cancers had their own unique gene-expression fingerprint.” (pg.101) Many times scientists, still to this day, publish “breast cancer” studies on melanoma cell lines because they do not realize what cell lines they are really using.
This big corruption in cell line history can never be reversed or forgotten but it can be prevented by scientists. Biologists are required to authenticate their cells. They perform standard tests to verify their cell lines, so they can continue with their experiments. If scientists perform this standard test they can make sure they have the correct cell for their specific experiment. They can also make sure its not contaminated or mislabeled. I think this standard test is very important because if scientists do not verify their cells, their experiment can end up in jeopardy, meaning they could lose everything they have worked very hard on for a very long time. Scientist use their time and money to perform their expensive experiments and write their research and if it ends up being false it will mislead others too. In a way when scientists verify their cells it’s like double checking your answers to make sure you circled or wrote the correct answer. It does take a longer time but I think that this would help you in the long run as a scientist trying to publish correct information because once it’s published it can never be unpublished. It will be worth it.