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Short tandem repeat profiling: part of an overall strategy for reducing the frequency of cell misidentification

  • Author(s): Nims, Raymond W.
  • Sykes, Greg
  • Cottrill, Karin
  • Ikonomi, Pranvera
  • Elmore, Eugene
  • et al.

The role of cell authentication in biomedical science has received considerable attention, especially within the past decade. This quality control attribute is now beginning to be given the emphasis it deserves by granting agencies and by scientific journals. Short tandem repeat (STR) profiling, one of a few DNA profiling technologies now available, is being proposed for routine identification (authentication) of human cell lines, stem cells, and tissues. The advantage of this technique over methods such as isoenzyme analysis, karyotyping, human leukocyte antigen typing, etc., is that STR profiling can establish identity to the individual level, provided that the appropriate number and types of loci are evaluated. To best employ this technology, a standardized protocol and a data-driven, quality-controlled, and publically searchable database will be necessary. This public STR database (currently under development) will enable investigators to rapidly authenticate human-based cultures to the individual from whom the cells were sourced. Use of similar approaches for non-human animal cells will require developing other suitable loci sets. While implementing STR analysis on a more routine basis should significantly reduce the frequency of cell misidentification, additional technologies may be needed as part of an overall authentication paradigm. For instance, isoenzyme analysis, PCR-based DNA amplification, and sequence-based barcoding methods enable rapid confirmation of a cell line’s species of origin while screening against cross-contaminations, especially when the cells present are not recognized by the species-specific STR method. Karyotyping may also be needed as a supporting tool during establishment of an STR database. Finally, good cell culture practices must always remain a major component of any effort to reduce the frequency of cell misidentification.

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