Line of attack

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Science  27 Feb 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6225, pp. 938-940
DOI: 10.1126/science.347.6225.938

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University of Colorado geneticist Christopher Korch passionately wants to correct a problem that has bedeviled biomedical research for more than half a century: the contamination of laboratory cell cultures. Over the past 15 years, he has exposed 78 widely used cell lines as overgrown with other cells, but few scientists have paid attention or sought to retract or correct their work on those impostor lines. Now Korch has a band of allies and, he hopes, a novel way to persuade recalcitrant biologists: Zoom out from individual cases of contamination to show the big picture. After a year of intensive data gathering and analysis, he believes he has for the first time begun to quantify the damage done to the scientific enterprise by contaminated cell lines. "We're looking at tens of thousands of publications, millions of journal citations, and potentially hundreds of millions of research dollars," he says.

  • * Jill Neimark is a writer based in Atlanta.

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