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“biosafety update 2009” consists of the powerpoint presentations: “Good Culture Practices” and “Misidentification and Contamination” with their respective quizzes

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“biosafety update 2009” consists of the powerpoint presentations:

“Good Culture Practices” and “Misidentification and Contamination” with their respective quizzes

Biosafety training starting in Jan 2009 will consist of the in class session (offered monthly) PLUS these two presentations. All three quizzes are to be handed in at the same time – within a week or so after the in class session.

good culture practices self paced powerpoint study mcmaster university biosafety office

Good Culture Practices self paced Powerpoint studyMcMaster University Biosafety Office

please print off the quiz or obtain

copy from HSC 3N1C and return

or fax to 905 528 8539


guiding principles of good cell culture EU (2-7) why worry? (NIH) (8-11)information / SOP’s (12-14)keep records (15-23)good culture techniques (24 – 32) risk of contamination (33 – 39)test cells regularly (40 – 43)contact us & training (44)

guiding principles for good cell culture practice eu
Guiding principles for Good Cell Culture Practice (EU)

1. understand the in vitro culture system you are using and the relevant factors that could affect it

2. document assurance of the quality of all materials and methods

3. document information to track materials and permit repetition of the work.

4. use measures to protect individuals and the environment from potential hazards

5. comply with laws, regulations and ethics

6. provide education and training to achieve good cell culture practice

why practice quality assurance and good culture practices
why practice quality assurance and good culture practices?

“the maintenance of high standards is fundamental to all good scientific research”

to maintain a reliable/reproducible program

to detect problems

to respond quickly when they occur

to prevent reporting erroneous results

goal of good culture practices training program
goal of Good Culture Practices training program

to improve the knowledge of basic biological culture practices

to improve the likelihood that contamination will be detected/reduced

to ensure that the intended cultures are used in experiments

why are we worried about cell line or culture contamination
why are we worried about cell line or culture contamination?

1) studies have shown that 20-35% of all cell lines are contaminated (HeLa cells in many cases)

some cell lines have a short doubling time and are a high risk for cross contamination into other cell lines.

2) research results may not be accurate if you are using a contaminated cell line

NIH has stated that “misidentification of cell cultures is a serious problem” (Nov 2007)

please read these three articles:

“Cases of mistaken identity”, “Cell line cross contamination” and “Open letter on cell line identification”

3) authentication of cultures may be a future requirement for peer reviewed processes

(grants and publishing)

“NIH notice on authentication of cell lines”

4) PI’s are responsible for the accuracy and purity of the cultures used in their research

- what detailed protocols/ practices are in place in your lab in the form of a manual and SOP’s?

- take this quiz to see how many of the recommended practices are currently in use in your lab (web link not yet ready)

- visit a excellent McMaster research lab manual at for an example

typical sop s for a culture lab
typical SOP’s for a culture lab
  • standards for the quality of culture vessels and surface coatings
  • sterility check for re-used items
  • maintenance and sterility check for automatic pipettes and pipettors
  • maintenance and sterility check for incubators
  • standards for culture reagents
  • Visit an excellent McMaster research lab manual at as an example
Checking cell viability and count

in practice: learn how to do it at “basic protocols”

good microscopy for good results

in practice: learn how to do it at “basic protocols”

good freezing and recovery techniques are important for healthy cells

in practice: learn how to do it at “basic protocols”

when starting with a new line strain know the following
when starting with a new line/strainknow the following:
  • authenticity
  • morphological appearance
  • viability
  • growth rate
  • passage number
  • differentiation state
  • contaminates present (or not)
  • appropriate +/- controls for the application
protocols to reduce the risk of contamination misidentification
protocols to reduce the risk of contamination / misidentification

A) keep excellent records

B) use good culture techniques

C) test cultured lines regularly

a keep excellent records
A) keep excellent records
  • obtain validated cell lines only from a reputable source

in practice: do not rely solely on verbal assurances for the identity of a cell line

in practice: have a documented provenance of the cell line, the genotypic and phenotypic characteristics

in practice: consider purchasing new cell lines rather than getting them from the “lab next door”

2) keep real time paperwork/inventories on cultures

in practice: several inventory options will record similar information, depending on the nature of your work

in practice: this will allow for tracking of lines and who has used them, and how all material has been used

sample inventory forms
sample inventory forms

any of these forms or equivalent can be used

3) have a standard coding and recording system in the lab for storage of frozen lines

in practice:keep a location log book and ensure everyone uses it

in practice: have a documented monitoring system for liquid nitrogen refilling procedures

4) do not use any cells/strain with questionable labeling

in practice: if it is no longer readable, discard it,

in practice: if it is not in the logbook, discard it.

in practice: if the entry in the logbook does not match the label on the vial, discard it.

5) label vials in advance when freezing or subculturing

in practice: pre label all vials for freezing and freeze only one cell line at a time.

learn about freezing cells at “basic protocols”

in practice: fill no vials or culture flasks without pre labeling

6) compare the label on the thawed vial with the label on the growth chamber before making the transfer.
b good culture technique
B) good culture technique

1) check and record that all reagents have been tested for sterility

in practice: a central facility should keep records of all sterility checks

in practice: incubate an uninoculated growth medium with all reagents as a blank if there is no central prep facility

do not use the same reagent bottle (eg media) for different cell/strain lines

in practice: do not share reagents among operators

in practice: it would be ideal to label each reagent bottle for the cell line it is to be used for

3) always change pipets between reagents/cell lines and plug all pipets

in practice: the plugged pipet decreases the chance that contamination can enter into the pipetting unit.

in practice: if liquid enters the pipetting unit, change the HEPA filter nose piece unit

4) work with only one cell/strain line at a time

in practice: finish all work with one line before moving on to another, this significantly reduces the chance of cross contamination

5) put media and reagents into flask, add cells last

in practice: this prevents a cell contaminated pipet entering into the stock media and contaminating it.

6) handle rapidly growing cells at the end of the work session (eg HeLa)

in practice: the cells are not available to contaminate slower growing lines used earlier in the work session

7) newly isolated lines to be characterized as soon as possible

in practice: the information garnered at this step will serve as the identification tests for the future as finite cell lines may change characteristics over time

In practice: avoid subjecting cells to fluctuating temperatures or culture conditions as it may cause cells to alter

8) quarantine all new cell/strain lines until they are shown to be not contaminated

in practice: isolate new cells so that there will be no opportunity for incubator cross contamination.

eg. use filtered flasks

re-evaluate your sterile technique regularly

in practice: institute regular sterility checks for all aspects of your culture

eg. all reagents except cell lines in culture

eg. plates in incubator

eg. swabs of pipeter and surface of biological cabinet

conditions that increase the risk of contamination
Conditions that increase the risk of contamination

1) new

- staff or student

in practice: individuals are most likely to have an incident in the first three months of working.

- supplier or reagent,

In practice: quality control any new reagents before placing them into general use or buy from a reputable source

- equipment

in practice: decontaminate and evaluate all new equipment

2) deteriorating conditions

in practice: aseptic technique is not followed

in practice: attention to detail is no longer followed

in practice: quality of lab air has changed due to local sanitary conditions or external environmental conditions (eg increased fungal spore count)

3) poor cleaning

in practice: protocols not followed or not available in a written format eg. biohood decon

in practice: disinfectant not effective against the agent being cultured

in practice: outdated disinfectant will be ineffective, therefore, date all disinfectants on the date of preparation eg. 10% bleach has a life span of several hours

in practice: gloves not sufficiently sterilized before use

4) autoclave - lack of control

in practice: all individuals using an autoclave must receive autoclave training

in practice: quality control for autoclaves requires regular use of a biological indicator, with records

in practice: there should be an understanding of appropriate packaging/loading for autoclaving

in practice: the steam for autoclaves should be quality controlled.

5) dirty equipment

in practice: pipet tissue culture nose piece filters are to be inspected regularly

in practice: incubator and water source and centrifuge need to be decontaminated regularly

in practice: cold/ warm rooms need to be cleaned regularly

in practice: lab coats need a regular schedule of cleaning, not just when they “look dirty”

6) lab conditions

in practice: increased general activity in lab will increase risk of contamination

in practice: construction activity (ie on ductwork) may release contaminant spores

in practice: increase in lab air currents are likely to affect the biological cabinet air curtain

biological cabinet

in practice: blocking either front or back grill will increase contamination

in practice: all biological cabinets should be certified annually

in practice: two people working in one hood causes too much disruption for good culture practices

c test cultures regularly
C) test cultures regularly
  • every time a culture is handled

- check by eye for contamination

- check by phase contrast microscopy

in practice: learn at “basic protocols”

2) on regular intervals

- run a culture without antibiotics to reveal contamination that may exist in the stock line, know what you are dealing with

- if possible, use no antibiotics in culture

test cell regularly in an appropriate assay

in practice: do the on–line biosafety training part 2

4) run positive and negative controls and do not ignore unexpected results.

in practice: consider human error

in practice: consider all reagents and equipment which have been in contact with the culture. assume nothing.

in practice: consider that the cell line is not what you expect it to be

visit our biosafety website at fhs mcmaster ca safetyoffice
visit our biosafety website at

for 2009

  • “biosafety update 2009” consists of “Good Culture Practices” and “Misidentification and Contamination” and the quiz
  • “initial biosafety training” from now on will consist of the in class session offered monthly PLUS these two presentations