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ATCC Releases American National Standard on Identification of Human Cell Lines


Significant Benefits to Key Areas of Biomedical Research Expected

In a June 2010 edition of In Vitro Cellular & Developmental Biology - Animal, an international team of scientists representing academia, regulatory agencies, major cell repositories, government agencies, and industry announced their intention to develop a consensus standard to enable accurate, reliable, and inexpensive methods for identification and authentication of cells and cell lines. According to the group, "Cell misidentification and cross-contamination have plagued biomedical research for as long as cells have been employed as research tools….Unambiguous cell authentication is an essential step in the scientific process and should be an inherent consideration during peer review of papers submitted for publication or during review of grants submitted for funding."

As a result of this collaboration, the ATCC® Standards Development Organization (ATCC SDO), a member and accredited standards developer of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), has published the American National Standard (ANS) ANSI/ATCC ASN-0002-2011, Authentication of Human Cell Lines: Standardization of STR Profiling. The standard's intent is to delineate a universally applicable method for authenticating new and established human cell lines and human primary tissue used in research.

What Is STR Profiling?

According to ATCC, Short Tandem Repeat (STR) profiling is a rapid, reproducible polymerase-chain-reaction- (PCR-) based method for the unambiguous identification or authentication of human cell lines with resolution down to the individual donor. It is a well-established technique that unambiguously characterizes a number of different loci in the human genome and provides a reference standard for human cell lines.

As misidentified cell lines continue to plague research, authentication of human cell lines via STR profile analysis is becoming a requirement of many journals and funding agencies.
Human cell lines are used in broad areas of critical medical research and development as models of normal and cancer tissues. But a significant proportion of cell lines are misidentified as a result of contamination or poor laboratory techniques and practices. The consequences of using misidentified cell lines have included the retraction of published papers and the inability to reproduce research results when incorrect cell lines are used, both of which leads to a waste of resources in support of research.

ANSI/ATCC ASN-0002-2011 is expected to have broad impact across basic cell research, drug discovery, and translational medicine in remedying this problem - preventing costly and damaging errors, harmonizing work, and speeding innovation. A living document, the standard will be subject to revisions over time to reflect changes in the field and new methodologies. "ATCC has been at the nexus of responding to the recognized problem of cell line misidentification, delivering standardized methods that can be used to test cell lines early and often," said Brian Pollok, Ph.D., president of ATCC.

The international workgroup of scientists that developed the standard was co-chaired by John R. W. Masters, Ph.D., of University College London, and Yvonne A. Reid, Ph.D., of ATCC. According to Dr. Masters, "The standard represents a collective experience and expertise that led to a refinement and consolidation of methods that should be of critical value to investigators who are working with human cell lines."

ANSI/ATCC ASN-0002-2011 is available for download on the ANSI webstore.

In 2007, the ATCC SDO, an entity of ATCC, became the first biological resource organization to become accredited by ANSI as an SDO. Accreditation by ANSI signifies that the procedures used by the SDO in the development of American National Standards meet the Institute's essential requirements for openness, balance, consensus, and due process. ATCC is a global non-profit bioresource center and research organization that provides biological products, technical services, and educational programs to private industry, government, and academic organizations around the world.


Jana Zabinski

Senior Director, Communications & Public Relations


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Beth Goodbaum

Journalist/Communications Specialist


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