In the quest to discover new therapeutic drugs and drug targets, cell based in-vitro models of a specific human disease or organ target are used in preference to animal models. The most common of these in-vitro model systems is the immortal human cell line, which can be used to mimic particular characteristics of their original organ as either ‘normal’ tissue or be representative of a specific disease state. Breast cancer research, for instance, commonly utilises cancer cell lines derived from actual breast tumours in testing the efficacy of potential chemotherapeutics.


Recent studies however, have indicated that as many as 16%(1) of these cell lines used in research are either misidentified or contaminated. In late 2007, journalist  Tom Fielden, presented a programme (as part of BBC Radio 4’s File on 4 investigative series) in which he claimed that millions of pounds of charity money were being wasted by researchers who were working with cell lines that were not what they believed them to be. The full extent of this situation was recently highlighted by the publication of the ATCC® Standards Development Organisation working group’s Perspective publication in the journal Nature Reviews Cancer(2). This Perspective identified STR profiling as the preferred method of in-vitro human cell line authentication.


The routine screening of cell lines used to model disease in medical research is increasingly recognised as an important tool in ensuring the quality of published research data, data which is supported by grants from both government and charitable organisations across the UK. Science funding in the UK was a key element of a speech by Vince Cable, MP on Wednesday 8 September at Queen Mary, University of London, in which he highlighted the UK Government’s commitment to “funding excellence in research and back research teams of international quality – and screen out mediocrity”.


LGC Standards is able to provide unrivalled support to researchers as they work through the process of authenticating their cell lines. Working with UK police forces and government departments, LGC is the largest independent provider of STR profiling services in the UK. The facilities and equipment at LGC are state-of-the-art and are supported by DNA analysts who are internationally recognised, working on high profile projects such as the recent identification of unknown Australian WW1 soldiers discovered in a mass grave at Fromelles, France.


Our widely renowned DNA analysts and our relationship with ATCC, the world’s most cited cell line biorepository enables LGC Standards to provide an unrivalled level of service and support in the field of cell line identification and as a premium service we are also able to provide authentication of cell lines used in research to ISO 17025 accredited standards.


For further information on cell line authentication at LGC Standards please contact



(1) McCormick; BioTechniques, Vol. 45, No.1, 2008.

(2) Nature Reviews Cancer, AOP, published online 7 May 2010
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