Over 30,000 Published Studies Could Be Wrong Due to Contaminated Cells

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.


Things like this happen all the time. The idea is, is that we recognize our mistakes and make measures to make sure the mistakes were really made and if they were, prevent it in the future.

Such mistakes are not acceptable. Not in the medical field, not in science.

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That is scary. I would assume our studies would be safe from this type of error, because they need the full, living and working brain attached to a full, living and working person/animal in order to test the drugs. But it is still scary. Thanks for sharing!

They found out not long ago that all the medicine tests they did with mice were actually male so there was a degree of error when the products were finalized and sold to humans. Things like this happen all the time. It’s unfortunate but it happens. That’s why it’s important to learn from the mistakes we made and prevent them from happening again.