Oppo, I am pissed.

Image: credit, my lab (contaminated cells little black dots)

So pissed, in fact, that I am now going to rant about a technical work issue that has nothing to do with cars. Feel free to take a nap or get a drink or something while I get this out of my system.

As part of what I do, I grow mammalian cells in a dish with nutrient-filled growth medium. This rant is about cells made from human embryonic kidney. I need these cells, and so I bought a vial from the American Type Culture Collection, a corporation that maintains repositories of such things so scientists like me can buy them when we need to. So, I buy a vial of these things, it’s about $500 for one little vial. I grow then up, and bad things start growing in them. Probably yeast contamination. They are ruined.


So, we get them to send us another vial. We do controls on our end to prove that we did not introduce any microbial contamination by anything we did or used. Cells are contaminated again, which we document. It’s definitely their fault.

ATCC tech support has us fill out a detailed troubleshooting form about every aspect of what we did and used. Fine. We want to get to the root of the problem. We’re scientists after all.

Instead of working the problem, they used our form to try and poke holes on our end and conclude that we caused the contamination. The long-winded reply I just got in my email is full of corporate bullshit about how they test rigorously and blah blah...all CYA stuff. There speculations hold no water in light of the evidence we provided. Did they actually do the experiment we did and thaw a vial of the same lot to confirm or refute our result?

No. They did not.

They conclude with this little gem, and this is the best part:

Unfortunately, we cannot offer a free of charge replacement. However, we can offer a 10% discount on the repurchase of 1 vial of CRL-3214.


Gee, a 10% discount so I can throw more of my good money after bad on another vial of your contaminated cells that I can’t use for my research and waste more of my time doing it! What swell folks they are! I’m going to go see my department administrator now and find out if I can tell financial services to not pay the invoice.

If you’ve stuck with this to the end, here’s an E-type coupe for your time.

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