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European Biopharmaceutical Review

Culture Clash

Serum has long been an integral media component of cell culture, providing a rich source of diverse nutrients vital for successful in vitro culture. Fetal bovine serum (FBS) is the preferred serum source for cell culture for several reasons. First, FBS is highly accessible and accommodating to most cell types and is therefore the most widely used supplement for mammalian cell culture – including human primary cells. Second, it consists of a broad spectrum of components like proteins, growth factors, enzymes and other chemical constituents that make it ideal for promoting cell health and growth. Third, it provides a broad spectrum of utility such as attachment and spreading, detoxifying and transport factors attributed to a serum’s complex structure (1,2).

Lot-to-Lot Variability

Although FBS can be utilised across a wide array of cell types from various sources (including multiple different species), one major disadvantage is its lot-to-lot variability, which is also observed in other serum compositions such as human serum albumin (HSA). This variability stems from the numerous natural and chemical components that contribute to its complex structure, which is attributed to the varying conditions and parameters observed during processing and collection. For example, inconsistency in batch sizes; the number and age of animals used; the potential presence of varying amounts of endotoxins; and other pathogen-associated contaminants can all influence each lot’s quantitative and qualitative consistency and performance. This necessitates the regular screening of multiple FBS lots prior to purchase in order to maintain a consistent experimental and/or manufacturing output. Additionally, even when the ideal lot has been identified, the culture effects can still vary from one cell type to the next. This impacts the ability to utilise a single lot for multiple applications and poses a challenge for translational and human clinical studies.

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Since joining Irvine Scientific in 2012, Jessie HT Ni has been leading the R&D team in developing improved CD, ACF culture media for major primary cells and cell lines. She received her PhD in Molecular Biology and post-doctoral training in Immunology from University of Minnesota, US, and also has a Master’s degree in Management of Technology from Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota.
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