Relatório sobre 32.755 artigos de pesquisa: apoiados em linhagem celular mal identificadas!

segunda-feira, outubro 23, 2017

The ghosts of HeLa: How cell line misidentification contaminates the scientific literature

Serge P. J. M. Horbach, Willem Halffman 


While problems with cell line misidentification have been known for decades, an unknown number of published papers remains in circulation reporting on the wrong cells without warning or correction. Here we attempt to make a conservative estimate of this ‘contaminated’ literature. We found 32,755 articles reporting on research with misidentified cells, in turn cited by an estimated half a million other papers. The contamination of the literature is not decreasing over time and is anything but restricted to countries in the periphery of global science. The decades-old and often contentious attempts to stop misidentification of cell lines have proven to be insufficient. The contamination of the literature calls for a fair and reasonable notification system, warning users and readers to interpret these papers with appropriate care.

Citation: Horbach SPJM, Halffman W (2017) The ghosts of HeLa: How cell line misidentification contaminates the scientific literature. PLoS ONE12(10): e0186281.

Editor: Wolfgang Glanzel, KU Leuven, BELGIUM

Received: April 21, 2017; Accepted: September 28, 2017; Published: October 12, 2017

Copyright: © 2017 Horbach, Halffman. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Data Availability: Data supporting our analysis have been deposited in the DANS archive (curated by the Dutch Royal Academies of Sciences), and are accessible via This includes the precise search string and the Web of Science search history based on it, along with instructions on how to repeat our search in WoS. However, access to data (i.e., the full list of articles found to be reporting on misidentified cell lines) is conditional upon approval by the research ethics committee of the Science Faculty of the Radboud University Nijmegen (via The key concern leading to conditional access is that the data provide a rough estimate of the size of the problem of cell line misidentifications contaminating the research literature. It is NOT a way to accuse individual researchers, research teams, or research institutes, as the data are not sufficiently precise and will lead to false positives (and hence false accusations). Using the data without sufficient notice of the context might lead to false accusations targeting individual scientists or research institutes which could have severe negative consequences for individuals involved. Researchers wanting to re-use these data will have to convince the ethics committee that data will not be used for such purposes.

Funding: The authors received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program (, under grant agreement no. 665926. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.