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What are the advantages/ disadvantages of including serum in media?

As serum is derived from natural tissues, adding serum to your cell culture growth media, provides your cell culture with some physiological elements: 

  • Presence of growth enhancing nutrients, leading to increased cell culture growth rates. 

  • Presence of basic nutrients and minerals found within the in vivo environment, e.g. binding proteins, ensuring your cell cultures better resemble in vivo cell cultures.  

  • Presence of inhibitors protecting cells from a variety of conditions such as proteolysis. 

However, there are also disadvantages to using serum, particularly as the exact composition of serum is undefined: 

  • Difficulty in ensuring batch-to-batch consistency, leading to increased testing taking place at the start of each new batch. 

  • Less control over the cell culture’s physiological response 

  • Increased costs of purchasing both sera and cell culture media.  

New cell culture media are trying to replicate the advantages of including serum within cell culture media, without the disadvantages. One example of these new physiologically-relevant cell culture media is PlasmaxTM, which 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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