Researchers warn that large parts of biomedical science could be invalid due to a cascading history of flawed data in a systemic failure going back decades.
A new investigation reveals more than 30,000 published scientific studies could be compromised by their use of misidentified cell lines, owing to so-called immortal cells contaminating other research cultures in the lab.
The problem is as serious as it is simple: researchers studying lung cancer publish a new paper, only it turns out the tissue they were actually using in the lab were liver cells. Or what they thought were human cells were mice cells, or vice versa, or something else entirely.
If you think that sounds bad, you’re right, as it means the findings of each piece of affected research may be flawed, and could even be completely unreliable.
“Most scientists don’t intentionally publish findings on the wrong cells,” explains one of the researchers, Serge Horbach from Radboud University in the Netherlands.
“It’s an honest mistake. The more concerning problem is that the research data is potentially invalid and impossible to reproduce.”
I don’t know to what extent mental health science is impacted by bad science but the simple fact that 30’000 studies could be compromised is an indicator of scientific integrity which seems to be pretty low across the board.