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How many types of cell culture media are there?

There are many types of cell culture media as the growth and metabolic requirements and biological environments of cultured cells are myriad. However, all cell culture media can be divided into two main groups – natural and artificial:

  1. Natural media are derived from natural tissues, such as blood or serum.  Various tissues, in physiological or modified form, can be used as cell culture media. These include foetal bovine serum (FBS), and umbilical cord serum. Natural media is very hard to reproduce as the exact composition of these media is undefined and subject to batch-to-batch variability.

  2. Artificial media are chemically defined and synthetically manufactured with different ratios of organic and inorganic compounds such as vitamins, amino acids, nutrients and salts. These cell culture media can be supplied in either a liquid or powder form. Artificial media are often supplemented with FBS or some other type of natural sera to add essential natural nutrients and growth factors for cell proliferation.

Cell culture media (both natural and artificial) have been produced to a generalised formula of nutrients needed for cell culture growth. Researchers often need to amend the cell culture media to accommodate the optimum growth requirements of a specific cell type. This can include altering serum concentrations, and/or adjusting the concentrations/ratios of other supplements, such as additional amino acids, vitamins, cytokines and/or selection compounds (e.g. puromycin).

Some cell types require very specific amounts of multiple supplements and selecting the correct combination of supplements is time consuming, laborious and difficult to reproduce across cell culture media batches. Recently, some new physiologically-relevant cell culture media were developed aiming to resolve some of these issues. One in particular, PlasmaxTM, is the only ready-to-use cell culture medium containing growth enhancing components at physiological levels as well as essential trace elements.

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