DNA “fingerprint” analysis has recently become known as a valuable technique for positive identification of any given individual. The chances for mistaken identity have been estimated to be 10-6 for close siblings or as little as 10-23 for randomly selected individuals. This methodology thus represents a significant improvement over previously established identification tests using protein or enzyme analysis techniques and has already found application in forensic medicine.

One of the chief problems in tissue culture studies is the question of the unequivocal identity of the cultured cells used and the very real possibility of their being contaminated by cells of a similar morphological appearance. We report here the application of the DNA “fingerprint” technique to the genotypic analysis of cultured human squamous carcinoma cells. The results show that a number of lines, designation HCu, have become cross-contaminated. Lines SNO, HCu 10, and HCu 13 are genetically distinct, however lines HCu 10, 18, 33, 37, and 39 are genetically identical and are in fact subcultures of the same cells. In addition, a myocardial line known as Girardi is shown to be identical to HeLa cells. The introduction of this technique to tissue culture laboratories could therefore prevent contaminated cultures from being disseminated or used in research studies.

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