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Monday, 01. January 2001 /

Serum-free Culture Medium

Project title:

Serum-free Culture Medium


Project leader:

Rene Fischer


Financial support:    


Project background:

In vitro models are becoming more and more popular. Testing compounds on cell cultures saves space, costs and can be more reliable than using entire organisms, which may be subject to restrictions due to age, gender or housing conditions. From an animal welfare point of view, in vitro models are a huge success because animals are spared the stress and pain of an experiment.  


To grow cell cultures, the cells need certain growth factors and other nutrients to stimulate their growth, to nourish them and to keep them alive. Typically, fetal bovine serum (FBS) is supplemented to the medium because it contains the dietetics the cells need. The production of FBS is by all means a controversial issue: if pregnant cows are being slaughtered – and it is found that the fetus is older than 3 months – the uterus is opened and a syringe is inserted into the still beating heart of the fetus to extract the blood. Subsequently, the blood is centrifuged and the plasma is then sold to laboratories all over the world.   


Consequently, even though “in vitro” models are the preferable method to the equivalent “in vivo” model, the production of culture medium still involves the harm of animals.  


Animalfree Research funded the study led by Rene Fischer (ETH in Zurich), investigating the possibility of freezing cells using an artificial medium rather than FBS. The objective of the project was to find a replacement for FBS, and thus reducing the sacrifice of fetal bovine.    






Hernandez Y., Fischer R. (2007): Serum-free Culturing of Mammalian Cells – Adaptation to and Cryopreservation in Fully Defined Media. ALTEX 24: 110-116.