New Journal Article Urges Use of Animal Serum-Free Cell Culture
A growing number of researchers and scientists are eager to implement more humane and reliable alternatives to animals in medical research. A paper written by PCRM scientists and doctors that appears in the March issue of Trends in Biotechnology recommends the use of animal serum-free media to grow live cells. Currently, fetal bovine serum (FBS) is the most commonly used medium. However, its use raises ethical, scientific, and safety concerns.
FBS is obtained from bovine fetuses by puncturing their hearts with a needle without the use of anesthesia. However, new methods that permit the growth of human cells in an animal serum-free medium would allow scientists to make cell culture more humane.
Serum-free cell culture also has numerous scientific advantages. Growing cells without animal serum eliminates several variables from experiments. FBS is chemically undefined and has high between-batch variability. This makes for a highly unpredictable cell culture system, and experimental results might not be reproducible. Eliminating FBS from cell culture media is the best way to ensure that these variables are diminished and the results can be duplicated in different laboratories.
“Scientists have access to humane and scientifically superior alternatives; it is entirely feasible—and certainly advisable—to eliminate the use of fetal calf serum,” said Megha Shah Even, M.S., the lead author of the paper and a leader in the development of the first animal serum-free insulin assay.
Even is a research analyst with PCRM and has a Master of Science degree in Biological Sciences from George Washington University. PCRM director of toxicology and research Chad Sandusky, Ph.D., and PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D., coauthored the paper.