Exploring and developing sustainable growth media

Today the status quo for growing animal tissue in culture involves the use of fetal bovine serum (FBS). FBS is a blood product extracted from fetal calves. This product supplies cells with nutrients and stimulating growth.

Of course it is unreasonable for FBS to be involved in the production of animal-free animal products. Not only is the method of procuring the product questionable, like all animal products, it unsustainable and resource-heavy to produce, with large batch-to-batch variation. After creation of the cell lines, efforts to remove serum from the growth media are key. Because cell lines have different nutritional requirements, it makes sense for this work to follow the establishment of the appropriate cell lines. This usually achieved by high throughput compound screening or in the case of defined iPSC media, sustainable replacement.

The media used to promote cell proliferation is called proliferation media. A distinct media formulation called differentiation media is used to promote the maturation of the cells towards the desired cell types, such as myoblasts or adipose cells. Two types of media may need to be developed – media that promotes growth for mass production and media that promotes differentiation into muscle and fat.

There are several off-the-shelf serum free media available to explore, however they are often trademarked and patent protected, with little transparency as to the contents of the media. We are pursuing opportunities to develop serum-free media.

Also the nutrients that the cells need to multiply like, carbohydrates, amino acids, nucleotides, salts, need to be produced sustainable to make cultured meat the environmental superior alternative.


Gstraunthaler, Gerhard. “Alternatives to the use of fetal bovine serum: serum-free cell culture.” Altex 20.4 (2003): 275-281

Brunner, Daniel, et al. “Serum-free cell culture: the serum-free media interactive online database.” Altex 27.1 (2010): 53

Jochems, C. E., van der Valk, J. B., Stafleu, F. R., & Baumans, V. (2002). The use of fetal bovine serum: ethical or scientific problem?. ATLA-NOTTINGHAM-, 30(2), 219-228

Tan, K. Y., Teo, K. L., Lim, J. F., Chen, A. K., Reuveny, S., & Oh, S. K. (2015). Serum-free media formulations are cell line–specific and require optimization for microcarrier culture. Cytotherapy, 17(8), 1152-1165.

Tan, K. Y., Teo, K. L., Chen, A., Reuveny, S., & Oh, S. (2015). Optimization of serum-free media cultures to enable microcarrier-based expansion of MSCs. Cytotherapy, 17(6), S75.