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Where does Fetal Bovine Serum (FBS) come from?

  • Bovine serum is a by-product of the meat industry. Bovine blood may be taken at the time of slaughter, from adult cattle, calves, very young calves or (when cows that are slaughtered are subsequently found to be pregnant) from bovine fetuses.
  • Blood is available from bovine fetuses only because a proportion of female animals that are slaughtered for meat for human consumption are found to be pregnant.


What is Fetal Bovine Serum (FBS)?

  • Serum is the amber-colored blood fraction remaining after the natural coagulation of blood; it is typically further refined via centrifugation, which serves to remove remaining blood cells.  There are no deletions or additions (including preservatives) allowed.
  • Fetal bovine serum (FBS) is the serum derived from blood drawn from a bovine fetus via a closed system of collection in a facility that is approved by the national competent authority.
  • Whilst the procedure of making serum may seem to be straightforward, the processing of serum takes place under very tightly controlled conditions. The process has been carefully developed and uses sophisticated facilities and equipment, accompanied by extensive testing. The levels of control and testing are particularly stringent when processed bovine serum is intended for use in the production of medicinal products.


FBS in Cell Culture

  • Fetal bovine serum (FBS) is used as a growth supplement for the in vitro cell culture of eukaryotic/mammalian cells. Animal sera—both bovine and non-bovine sera—are used in cell culture applications with the most widely used being fetal bovine serum.
  • FBS contains 1000+ components, including proteins, electrolytes, lipids, carbohydrates, hormones, enzymes, and other undefined constituents, It also contains very low levels of antibodies, allowing for versatility in many different cell culture applications.
  • FBS is typically used at a concentration of 5–10% in a basal medium
  • FBS composition is undefined, and therefore can vary from lot-to-lot

Researcher’s primary concerns regarding FBS:

  • Supply continuity
  • Lot-to-lot consistency

FBS is a source of:

  • Growth and attachment factors for cells
  • Lipids
  • Hormones
  • Nutrients and energy sources necessary for growth
  • Carriers
  • Buffering capacity/protection
  • Binding and transfer proteins

FBS protects cells from:

  • Large pH shifts
  • Proteases
  • Toxic agents
  • Shear forces
  • Agents that would typically break up monolayers of adherent cells
  • FBS acts to inactivate these agents

Cell growth in the presence of quality FBS is typically:

  • Rapid
  • Consistent and reproducible
  • Lacking in undesirable changes in differentiation
  • Not hampered by the introduction of detrimental contaminants


Click here to see the next section, Serum and Origin Definitions

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