Yes, cell lines last eternally

They are laboratory cells that are used as research tools in biomedicine


A document entitled Women’s voice in defence of the baby to be born and opposing to the vaccines contaminated with abortion, supposedly supported by 86 women from 25 countries, is circulating on the internet. This document ensures that “fetal cell lines simply do not last indefinitely” and that, consequently, “vaccines manufacturers have a strong incentive to find new lines of fetal tissues coinciding with the old ones''. This is FALSE. Cell lines are not mortal.

“Fetal cell lines simply do not last indefinitely, and the vaccine manufacturers have strong incentives to find new cell lines from fetal tissues coinciding with the old ones”.

Cell lines are laboratory cells that are used as research tools in biomedicine and have the capacity to last eternally or, at least, until the scientists themselves decide to dispense them. The majority of these cultures come from animal cells and, for the case of human cells, they are normally of cancerous or tumor type. Nevertheless, some of them have been also created from embryonic tissue. In whatever way, both have the capacity to replicate infinitely under suitable nutritive and environmental conditions. For the PER.C6 cell line, used by Johnson & Johnson, immortalised in 1995 and used in the development of Janssen’s vaccine; or that of HEK 293, used for the fabrication of AstraZeneca’s vaccine

“Cell lines come from banks or repositories where are stored or are donated, and we the scientists acquire them”, points out Gloria Pascual, associate researcher of the Stem Cells and Cancer laboratory at the Institute for Biomedical Investigation in Biomedicine (IRB) at Barcelona, to Verificat. “There is a series of established cell lines which are the ones being constantly used for research. This is what happens with this kidney embryonic cell line, which has been used for decades. It is not that new lines are being generated to do vaccine trials”, she concludes.

Tumour cell lines

In addition to producing vaccines, cell lines are also used to design new drugs, although then such cultures are now used in the production. This is what occurred with the vaccines against covid-19: many pharmaceutical companies used them for their design in the laboratory, but only two of them, AstraZeneca and Janssen, also incorporated them in the production. They use them because they are very efficient virus “factories”, which makes possible the production of these drugs at a large scale.

The matter is that the cell lines used to make these vaccines are, as Pascual points out, of embryonic origin, a reason for which the signers talk of “fetal tissues”. In this article we already described the origins of these cell lines and how thanks to kidney embryonic tissue one of the most used cell lines on the planet: HEK293 was created.

However, cell lines of embryonic origin are not as numerous as the tumour cell lines, for example. It is enough to have a look at one of the bigger banks of cell lines on the planet, the American Type Culture Collection (ATCC), which only contains one cell line of embryonic origin in the almost 4000 different cultures that it offers.