Notice Regarding Authentication of Cultured Cell Lines

Notice Number: NOT-OD-08-017

Key Dates
Release Date: November 28, 2007

Issued by
National Institutes of Health (NIH), (

A recent open letter to Secretary Leavitt from Dr. Roland Nardone and several experts in cell biology highlighted an important methodological issue associated with research involving cultured cells.  The letter identifies a number of instances in which research has been based on misidentified or contaminated cultures.  In some cases, proper characterization would have altered the experimental outcome significantly.  Improper characterization can impede efforts to replicate published findings and therefore the advancement of science.  The letter goes on to indicate that there are relatively inexpensive ways to authenticate lines and characterize these experimental systems. Dr. Nardone recommends that granting agencies restrict funding to institutions that do not use available authentication procedures. 

We are convinced by the body of evidence developed by Dr. Nardone and his colleagues that misidentification of cell cultures is a serious problem 1.  Because authentication methods can be quite specific and are continuously evolving, it would be impractical for the NIH to require application of particular methods in all grant applications.  The peer review process has been designed to carefully examine the experimental approach and assure that the investigators propose appropriate methods and resources for the described study.  A similar process is used to screen manuscripts for publication.  Both review processes can accommodate improvements in methodologies and experimental systems in ways that would be difficult for the segments of a granting agency involved in making awards.

We believe that professional societies, researchers, and reviewers are continually working to establish a range of acceptable experimental practices.  Grant applications that fail to employ such practices would not be considered of the highest quality and such manuscripts would not fare well in the journal review process.  We encourage all reviewers to consider these issues carefully in order to protect and promote the validity of the science we support. 

Norka Ruiz Bravo, Ph.D.
NIH Deputy Director for Extramural Research

Michael Gottesman, M.D.
NIH Deputy Director for Intramural Research

For further information contact Walter T. Schaffer, Ph.D., Senior Scientific Advisor for Extramural Research, Building One, Room 144, Bethesda, Maryland 20892
Phone 301-402-2725, Email:

1Chatterjee, R. Cell Biology: Cases of Mistaken Identity, Science (315) 928-931, 2007

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