Serum-free Cell Culture
Researchers in cell biology are familiar with adding bovine or calf serum to cell cultures. Serum a supplement containing growth factors required for cell growth. Unfortunately, adding serum means adding a highly variable non-standardized product to a well ordered system. The non-standard origin of the serum requires extensive testing of serum batches to find the batch compatible with your cell types.
Cell culturing with serum means working with a product of animal origin, essentially a waste product of an abattoir. Culturing under stringent conditions is not the primary interest of the abattoir. The price of the serum tends to be a reflection of the level of care each facility takes with its quality control. Prices are an effect of serum demand and the relative health of the animals used to obtain the serum. Recent developments show a continuous price increase which might be caused by shortage.
Why Serum-free Cell Culturing?
The substitute, when culturing cells in any standard enriched basal media containing amino acids (eg. DMEM, RPMI etc.), simply replace your serum, with serum substitute HL-1TM Serum Substitute; a serum-free medium additive. HL-1TM replaces serum or significantly reduce its concentration in a variety of basal media.
The second option would be to opt for a complete serum-free medium, there are generic serum-free medium like UltraCultureTM Serum-free Medium or dedicated serum-free media like X-VIVO 15TM Medium a serum-free, xeno-free medium for hematopoietic cells.
Serum-free Media are Available in Different Grades:
A serum-free medium can be more than one grade; for example serum free medium Pro293a is a chemically defined serum-free medium suitable for adherent cells, this serum-free medium is protein-free (no proteins >10kDalton) and is of non animal origin.
If you are currently cultivating your cells with serum and see the benefit of standardizing your cell culture by moving away from serum culturing, you have to follow a procedure called weaning, to adapt your cells to the serum-free environment. The percentage (%) serum added to a cell culture in the range of 5-10% is not conform the in vivo situation, in the human body, the cells are overloaded with food, serum-free is like a healthy diet.
You may have cells, which grow immediately in the new serum-free medium others need the weaning procedure which might takes 4-6 weeks to adapt, depending on cell growth.
One more point of care, when cryopreserving your cells, which are cultured in serum-free medium, avoid using serum, once in serum the weaning procedure is required even when cryopreserving. There is serum-free cryopreservation medium named ProFreeze CD, a chemically defined serum-free freezing medium.