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News Article

Scientists Call for the Use of Diverse Cell Lines in Research

By Miriam Bello | Thu, 06/03/2021 - 16:40

Scientists from Sydney and New York made a joint appeal to the scientific community to improve the diversity of cells used in medical research. Currently 95 percent of all human cell lines used in research are from the EU.

Human cell lines used in biomedicine lack ancestral diversity, making the research exclusive and harder to translate to other population groups, warn scientist in the paper “Ancestry matters: Building inclusivity into preclinical study design” published in Cell. In clinical genetics, a person’s ancestral background is important for tracking the representation of groups from different genetic ancestries in population databases. The article further explains the concrete cases when including cell lines from different population groups could benefit other communities. For example, the US’s African American community has a relatively high rate of prostate cancer in men but only one in 10 prostate cell lines used regularly in research is of African descent. “The lack of diversity in prostate cancer cell lines means that initial cancer drug screening can miss compounds that are particularly effective for African American men.”

Embracing genetic diversity in scientific research and in medicine is an important step to improve health outcomes and reduce health disparities in marginalized communities, said Timothy Thornton, Director of graduate programs in the Department of Biostatistics, School of Public Health, to University of Washington.

Improving the genetic diversity cell lines is a complex and time-consuming issue. On the meantime, there are other strategies that can be implemented to see the efficacy of different treatments in racially diverse populations, such as involving them in clinical trials. Mexico is an increasingly popular destination for clinical trials that has attracted the attention of numerous pharmaceutical countries. Mexico is participating on numerous clinical trials including those for the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, Cansino Biologics and Walvax Biotechnology. The country is also participating in the HIV vaccine clinical trial Mosaico, a Janssen’s sponsored study taking place in North America, Latin America and the EU.

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
Nuventra, Cell, University of Washington
Miriam Bello Miriam Bello Journalist and Industry Analyst