Base cell culture media are used on a routine basis and help researchers save time and standardise their cell culture processes. However, these media are therefore formulated by necessity, to be generic for a range of cell types. For researchers studying cancer biology, in particular measuring specific cell functionality such as metabolism, this raises challenges. As a consequence researchers are spending precious research time refining culture conditions through generic tasks such as adjusting the formulation of the base media.

The problems of base cell culture growth media

In 2012, Dr. Saverio Tardito was working at the Cancer Research UK Beatson Institute on how glutamine metabolism affected the biology of brain tumours. This required careful regulation of the amino acids within the base cell culture growth media. Using the base media available at the time made this process difficult, as most of these media were formulated over 50-years ago. The formulations of these cell culture growth media were developed to encourage continuous cell proliferation and are not physiologically accurate to the in vivo cell environment. Not only does this make the careful regulation and amendments of the levels of different amino acids difficult during an experiment, it also means that the results obtained using the previous commercially available cell media are skewed and don’t match the in vivo cell environment.  

"Many researchers are not aware that the media they’re using is completely different to what cells would experience in an in vivo environment. In this respect, once their eyes are opened, they are convinced. It’s easy to use a medium that is more physiologically relevant than what is commercially available." Dr. Saverio Tardito

An alternative solution?

Dr. Tardito decided to overcome these problems by developing his own physiologically relevant cell culture growth media, which mimics the human metabolic environment in cancer cell culture – Plasmaxä.

Plasmaxä is a chemically defined cell culture media as the concentrations of amino acids and other nutrients are similar to those found in human plasma including: proteinogenic amino acids, non-proteinogenic amino acids, amino acid derivatives, inorganic salts, trace elements, vitamins and other components. 

“We simply believed that a media formulated on the physiology would give us back better and more relevant results” Dr. Saverio Tardito

PlasmaxTM: A physiologically relevant cell culture media

Using Plasmaxä in cancer cell biology experiments provided results that were closer to those achieved from in vivo models. One particular impact, that previously available cell culture media had on in vitro experiments, is reversing a reaction of the urea cycle within cells. This occurs when the base media’s high arginine concentration causes the activity of the enzyme argininosuccinate lyase, to reverse, an effect that is not observed in vivo nor in cells grown in Plasmaxä. Another proven impact is that the addition of selenium in Plasmaxä is sufficient to stimulate colony forming capacity of breast cancer cells by preventing lipid peroxidation-mediated ferroptosis. 

"We had a good amount of results supporting the idea that Plasmax™ and previously available commercial media are doing different things when looking at the metabolism of cancer cells." Dr. Saverio Tardito

But how can you access PlasmaxTM

Even though the formulation for Plasmaxä is published and widely available, making it yourself can be complicated. With weeks of effort, significant initial investment and perseverance, there is no guarantee that you will end up with the same formulation of media. Saverio was keen to ensure that other researchers would be able to access Plasmaxä without the effort involved in developing it from scratch. As a Cancer Research UK funded researcher, Saverio was able to contact Ximbio. Through Ximbio, he was able to scale up the production, promote and translate Plasmaxä. Plasmaxä has generated interest worldwide with at least a dozen of research groups already using Plasmaxä. Published data in peer reviewed journals are in the pipeline.

Plasmaxä is now available through Ximbio