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MERS coronavirus-infected MRC-5 cells

MRC-5(Medical ResearchCouncil cell strain 5) is a diploid human cell culture line. It consists of fibroblastic cells originally derived from the lungs of a 14-week-old male fetus.[1][2][3] This was aborted in September 1966 because of psychological problems by a 27-year-old, otherwise physically healthy mother in England.[3][4] The MRC-5 cells do not have the ability to cause tumors and have a low frequency of chromosomal abnormalities.[5]

The cell line was isolated by J.P. Jacobs and colleagues after the 7th cell division (PDL7). The cell line reaches senescence after approximately 45 to 60[6] Divisions.[7][8] Since the original stock runs out after about 40 years and the integrity and sterility of the original glass ampoules are at risk, WHO has commissioned a second stock with a slightly increased doubling rate (PDL12).[6]


MRC-5 cells have been used to produce several vaccines in recent years (MMR – in this case rubella, chickenpox, hepatitis A and rabies).[9] Leonard Hayflick and Paul Moorhead discovered in the early 1960s that viruses needed for certain vaccines develop better in human stem cells in the laboratory than in animal tissue or live animals.[3] The latter had often been used previously for production and cultivation, such as kidney cells previously used from monkeys.[9] However, with that method of production from kidney tissue, it repeatedly happened that these also contained unwanted pathogens, whereas the cells originally obtained from the foetus enabled safe virus and thus also vaccine production.[10]

Cultivation on MRC-5 cells works particularly well for rubella viruses, which are then included in the rubella vaccine in an attenuated form (for example, in Priorix[11] or Priorix-Tetra[12]). The viruses are purified for the vaccine and residues of the cell culture are removed, however, they can get into the vaccine as traces under certain circumstances.[13] According to the PEI, these possible remnants of the cell line cultures are not ingredients but adjuvants in the production process, as they are not “deliberately added”.[13] The Corona vaccine candidate AZD1222, on the other hand, is not produced using MRC-5 cells.[14]

Today, mainly in addition to MRC-5, the WI-38 cell line, also derived from a fetus, is used for the development of a variety of vaccines.[3] In both cases, however, the fetuses were not aborted for the purpose of extracting tissue from them for the cell lines.[13] Moreover, these cell lines were taken from the fetuses once, after which they were continuously multiplied and frozen. There has been criticism, particularly from religious communities, that the MRC-5 cell line (and also WI-38) was derived from an aborted fetus.[9] However, the Catholic Church, as well as other religious communities, see the production of such vaccines as justified in terms of their utility. In 2003, for example, the future Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Ratzinger) had just praised the rubella vaccine.[15] In a statement in 2017, the Pontifical Academy for Life also sees the use of such vaccines as justifiable.[16]

See also

  • WI-38

Web links

Individual references

  1. MRC-5 ATCC ® CCL-171™ Homo sapiens lung Normal.American Type Culture Collection, retrieved January 9, 2020.
  2. AG05965-D.Coriell Institute for Medical Research, retrieved 9 January 2020.
  3. a b c d Ralf Nowotny:Have cancer cells been detected in vaccines? (Fact Check).In: mimikama. 9 January 2020, retrieved 9 January 2020 (German).
  4. Zaria Gorvett:The controversial cells that saved 10 million lives.In: BBC. 4 November 2020, accessed 23 December 2020 (English).
  5. T. Betáková et al.: Overview of measles and mumps vaccine: origin, present, and future of vaccine production. In: Acta Virologica. Vol. 57, No. 2, 2013, pp. 91-96 , doi:10.4149/av_2013_02_91, PMID 23600866.
  6. a b Ross Hawkins and Miltiades Stylianou:SECOND REPLACEMENT SEED STOCK FOR MRC-5 CELLS.WHO, 2018, accessed March 4, 2020 (English).
  7. J. P. Jacobs et al: Characteristics of a human diploid cell designated MRC-5. in Nature. Vol. 227, No. 5254, July 11, 1970, pp. 168-170 , doi:10.1038/227168a0, PMID 4316953.
  8. J. P. Jacobs: The status of human diploid cell strain MRC-5 as an approved substrate for the production of viral vaccines. In: Journal of Biological Standardization. Vol. 4, No. 2, January 1, 1976, pp. 97-99, doi:10.1016/0092-1157(76)90018-4.
  9. a b c Frank Destefano, Paul A. Offit, and Allison Fisher: Vaccine Safety. In Stanley A. Plotkin et al. (eds.): Plotkin’s Vaccines. 7th ed. Elsevier, Philadelphia 2017, ISBN 978-0-323-35761-6, p. 1594, PMC 7173515 (free full text) – (
  10. Vaccinations: How one abortion helped save millions of lives.Der Spiegel, 6 March 2017, accessed 11 January 2020.
  11. Subject Guide Priorix.November 2019, retrieved 29 May 2020.
  12. Technical information Priorix-Tetra.December 2019, retrieved 29 May 2020.
  13. a b c Joana Splieth:No, cells from human fetuses and monkeys or glyphosate are not ingredients of vaccines.In: correctiv. 13 December 2019, retrieved 9 January 2020 (German).
  14. Grace Rahman:There are no foetal cells in the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine.In: Full Fact. 26 November 2020, accessed 11 December 2020.
  15. Liz Neporent:What Aborted Fetuses Have to Do With Vaccines.In: ABC News. 17 February 2015, accessed 10 January 2020 (English).
  16. Note on Italian vaccine issue.In: PontificalAcademy for Life. 31 July 2017, accessed 1 May 2020 (English).