Research Resource Identifiers improve proper use of cell lines in biomedical studies

January 29, 2019, eLife

Using Research Resource Identifiers (RRIDs) helps reduce the improper use of cell lines in biomedical studies, according to a study published today in eLife.

The findings suggest that continued use of RRIDs in the will allow better reporting of cell lines and other research materials in publications, which would in turn aid future reproducibility efforts.

Cell lines are used widely in the biological sciences. Their ability to multiply indefinitely means that scientists can, in theory, exactly replicate previous studies and build on the results. But mislabeling or mishandling can lead to the misidentification, contamination and/or distribution of problematic cell lines, which can in turn affect the validity of research data.

"RRIDs should help reduce this improper use of cell lines," explains co-first author Zeljana Babic, a graduate student at the Center for Research in Biological Systems, University of California, San Diego, US. "These unique identifiers can be included in the methods section of a research paper to define the cell line, antibody, transgenic organism or software used. They can alert researchers to resources that flag problematic cell lines, such as the Cellosaurus database."

"The Cellosaurus database is the most comprehensive knowledge resource on cell lines," says Amos Bairoch, professor at the University of Geneva and group leader at the Swiss Institute of Bioinformatics. "RRIDs for cell lines are created by this authoritative database."

Amanda Capes-Davis, Chair of the International Cell Line Authentication Committee (ICLAC), adds: "Misidentified cell lines are a major problem in the scientific literature. If researchers are alerted about the misidentification of a cell line before they publish, will they still report data from such a cell line?"

In their study, the team used a processing algorithm to text mine the methods sections of about two million scientific papers in PubMed Central. They used the algorithm to identify papers that included RRIDs and those that listed cell lines, and then compared how often misidentified cell lines appeared in these two samples.

They identified 305,161 unique cell-line names in 150,459 articles, and estimated that 8.6% of them were on the list of problematic cell lines. On the other hand, only 3.3% of the cell lines in the 634 papers that included RRIDs were on the problematic list. This suggests the use of RRIDs is associated with a lower reported use of problematic cell lines.

"But we must exercise caution when interpreting these results," explains senior author Anita Bandrowski, CEO of SciCrunch and Project Lead at the Center for Research in Biological Systems, University of California, San Diego. "The use of cell lines on the problematic list does not automatically mean that a given line is being employed improperly. Additionally, the list includes cell lines that have been labeled with the wrong type of cancer, but which may still be safely used if the researchers know the true identity of the line."

The team adds that it is important to review the evidence underlying the findings and make a considered judgment regarding their impact on published work. "Cell-line resources, such as Cellosaurus and the ICLAC register of misidentified , have been developed to improve awareness of cell-line information," Bandrowski concludes. "We hope that inclusion of RRIDs will result in improved use of these resources and better reporting of all research materials in future publications."

Explore further: NIST patents first DNA method to authenticate mouse cell lines

More information: Zeljana Babic et al, Incidences of problematic cell lines are lower in papers that use RRIDs to identify cell lines, eLife (2019). DOI: 10.7554/eLife.41676

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Archaeologists discover Incan tomb in Peru

February 16, 2019

Peruvian archaeologists discovered an Incan tomb in the north of the country where an elite member of the pre-Columbian empire was buried, one of the investigators announced Friday.

Where is the universe hiding its missing mass?

February 15, 2019

Astronomers have spent decades looking for something that sounds like it would be hard to miss: about a third of the "normal" matter in the Universe. New results from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory may have helped them ...

What rising seas mean for local economies

February 15, 2019

Impacts from climate change are not always easy to see. But for many local businesses in coastal communities across the United States, the evidence is right outside their doors—or in their parking lots.

The friendly extortioner takes it all

February 15, 2019

Cooperating with other people makes many things easier. However, competition is also a characteristic aspect of our society. In their struggle for contracts and positions, people have to be more successful than their competitors ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.