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Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why is it important to get your cell line authenticated

    The validity of research data relies heavily on the identity of the cell line used in testing. According to the American Type Culture Collection (ATCC) Standards Development Organization Workgroup (SDO) ASN-0002 [4], only 33% of researchers test the authenticity of their cell lines. Cell line authentication puts your mind at ease about all the hard work and time you have put into your research. Retractions hurt the reputation of the researcher and the research institution that supports the research.

  • Do I need to authenticate my cell line if it was purchased from a repository?

    If your cell line was purchased from a repository, an authentication report may have been included with your purchase.

    However, cell lines should be regularly authenticated after purchase. It is recommended that cell lines be validated every 1-2 months during active growth. In addition, many journals now have guidelines for cell line authentication testing prior to publication. Contamination and misidentification can happen in any lab; it is therefore crucial to authenticate your cell cultures periodically so that you are sure you are working with the genuine cell lines as your experiments progress.

  • Why should I trust Labcorp with my cell line?

    Labcorp has  over 30 years of experience in human DNA identification. Our DNA  laboratory provides high quality DNA tests including parentage, family relationship, and human DNA identity tests, as well as research services such as cell line authentication, MSI testing and mycoplasma contamination detection testing.

    Visit our "About Us" page for more information.

  • Can cross-contamination of cell lines or misidentification adversely affect my research data?

    Yes!  There are researchers who have lost years of work to problems such as cell line cross-contamination or misidentification.  On August 15, 2010, the authors of a paper originally published on April 15, 2005, retracted their article stating:

    "Upon  review of the data published in this article, the authors have been unable to reproduce some of the reported spontaneous transformation events and suspect the phenomenon is due to a cross-contamination  artifact."[5]

    The paper, titled "Spontaneous Human Adult Stem Cell Transformation" [6],  included research on human stem cells which were reported to "transform" into cancer-like cells.  The 2005 paper was cited many times by other researchers who, like the authors, were astounded at the possibility that stem cells could be "cancer-like".  The contamination  was later found to be due to HT1080 cells, a cancer cell line that overgrew the stem cell culture.

  • My lab is not in the USA, do you accept samples from other countries?

    Absolutely! We currently accept samples from around the world, including, but not limited to England, Australia, Italy, Singapore, India, Hong Kong, Canada, Argentina, Mexico, Norway, The Netherlands, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Chile, and Malaysia. The best option for sending samples overseas is to extract and quantitate the DNA from your cell line sample(s) in your own laboratory (or send a DRIED cell pellet). The extracted DNA or dried cell pellet from your cell line samples do NOT need to be on ice; shipping at ambient temperature is sufficient and causes no problems with the cell line authentication testing process. Sending a bulky dry ice package internationally could be expensive and potential shipping delays could damage the samples. If you prefer to send fresh/frozen cell pellets - please contact us for the best option for your specific needs.

  • How do I know if there is a mixture of two or more cell lines present in my sample?

    If a mixture of more than one human or mouse cell line is present there will be more than two peaks at several loci in your STR DNA profile report/data.  The peak height value is indicative of the signal strength of that allele, which theoretically should have a direct relationship to the amount of DNA in the sample.  Hence, in a mixture of human or mouse cell lines where some of the peaks at a locus are significantly  higher than others, the larger peaks would belong to the cell line that  was the major component of the mixture.  The smaller peaks would then belong to the minor component of the mixture.

    Please be aware that a mixture of two or more cell lines can look very similar to "genetic instability" in a cell line - where subpopulations of the genuine cell line exist which have a different STR DNA profile at some genetic loci due to genetic instability which is inherent to cancer cell lines.  It is therefore crucial that a trained DNA analyst helps to interpret the electropherogram (peak) data in these difficult cases to eliminate a possibility of a mixture as the cause of the additional alleles.  We are always here to help, so don't hesitate to contact us if you have questions about your data.​​

  • Is there a current list of cross-contaminated and misidentified human cell lines?​​

    Yes! The International Cell Line Authentication Committee (ICLAC) maintains an up-to-date list of all human cell lines that are known to be misidentified. Check your cell lines today to see if they are on this list - see link below. 

    ICLAC Register of Misidentified Cell Lines

  • Which journals or funding agencies have guidelines for cell line authentication?

    Visit our "Journal & NIH Guidelines" page for more information.

  • Do you only offer human cell line authentication? What about mouse cell line authentication?

    We have validated a mouse cell line authentication test which is now available to our clients.  Both human and mouse cell line and sample authentication is done via STR profiling.

    Visit our Mouse STR Profiling Page Here 

  • I have my cell line authentication results, now what do I do?

    The data you receive from Labcorp can be used to compare your submitted sample's STR profile to the STR profile of the reference cell line sample (either a repository cell line or patient sample, if a reference STR profile is available).  All of the STR DNA loci that we tested are used in the repository reference STR databases so you will be able to  compare the STR profile from our test with any of those databases.  If  you purchased your cell line from a repository, then the reference profile will be available through their website.

    If the STR DNA profile of your submitted cell line matches the known reference cell line's STR DNA profile at every overlapping genetic site, then your submitted cell line is "authenticated".  If there are differences present, it could mean misidentification, mislabeling, contamination by another cell line or genetic instability.  For human cell lines a percent match of 80% or above is considered "authenticated" [4], anything below that threshold should be regarded with suspicion (please note that the statistical approach to mouse cell line authentication is under evaluation in the scientific community).  If the tested cell line has been contaminated or misidentified, additional authentication testing should be done on earlier passages of that cell line to identify where the problem originated, or a new cell line stock should be  obtained from a reputable source.  Any research experiments done with a contaminated or misidentified cell line may have to be performed again with a genuine stock before publishing or moving forward with your research.

    Still having trouble with your results? We are here to help!  Contact your cell line testing representative and ask as many questions as you need to.

  • Will the results I get from Labcorp be accepted by journals?

    We are listed as a service provider for cell line authentication testing on several different websites, including the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) website.  We have been in the human DNA identification business for over 30 years and the lab has the accreditations and technical experience to support these services at the highest level.  

    Many of our clients have already published in various reputable journals using our cell line authentication testing results - ask us for references for journal articles that include our results and testing! 

  • How do I know which report option to choose for my specific needs? ​

    All of our report options offer the same high quality STR profiling test (we use PowerPlex 16HS for human STR (includes a mouse marker) and we test (18) mouse specific loci plus two human markers for mouse cell line authentication), the difference and what determines the price is the report format.  Please note, the electropherogram (peak) data, included with each test, is a useful tool for monitoring your cell line's identity, especially when you have your cell line tested for authentication as the passage number increases over time.

    Option #1 is our most cost efficient option and is perfect for routine quality control testing of your human or mouse cell line or other tissues/samples.  

    What you get:

    • Excel spreadsheet of the ANALYZED STR DNA profiles of all cell lines submitted in one batch 
    • Peak data for EACH submitted specimen

    Option #2 is  our first "report" option signed by a Laboratory Director.  This option is typically selected when a formal signed report is needed for EACH cell line but when the researcher needs a more cost efficient report versus Option #3 or #4.

    What you get:

    • Analyzed STR DNA profile of your submitted cell line in a formal signed report (no reference profile comparison) - each submitted sample will have an individual report
    • Peak data for EACH submitted specimen

    Option #3 is the most comprehensive "report" option that we offer and it is signed by a Laboratory Director.

    What you get:

    • Formal signed report that includes analyzed STR DNA profile of your submitted cell line side-by-side with the KNOWN reference STR profile for that  cell line, if available (e.g. from ATCC, Cellosaurus, etc.)
    • Comprehensive interpretation that includes percent match and Masters algorithm calculations which indicate how closely your submitted cell line matches the known reference cell line
    • Peak data for EACH submitted specimen

    This report will clearly indicate if your cell line is authenticated, misidentified, or "unique" among repository reference STR profiles.

    ​Option #4 is a "report" option signed by a Laboratory Director. This option is used most often for researchers who submit two specimens for comparison to EACH OTHER; it is useful for labs creating in-house cell lines (e.g., compare patient sample to low passage stock of established primary, cancer or stem cell line) or when testing xenografts from patient tissue.

    What you get:

    • Formal signed report that includes the analyzed STR DNA profile of your submitted "questioned" specimen side-by-side with the analyzed STR DNA profile of the submitted "reference" specimen
    • Comprehensive interpretation that includes percent match and Masters algorithm calculations which indicate how closely your submitted specimen matches the submitted reference specimen  
    • Peak data​ for BOTH specimens