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Purpose of cell culture

When scientists work with cells from plants or animals, they must find conditions that support good cell growth. This is where cell culture media comes into the picture. What exactly is cell culture media? These media include nutrients and other components to support cell growth and proliferation in vessels such as tissue culture flasks or bioreactors.

Types of cell culture media and feeds

The cell culture media used in biomanufacturing and research fall into several categories: animal-derived (AD), chemically defined (CD), and animal-derived component-free (ADCF). In research labs, fetal bovine serum (FBS) is commonly added to cell culture media at a concentration of 2% to 10%. However, most biomanufacturing companies are now moving away from animal-derived media and feeds, and they’re eliminating serum where possible. Let's take a look at some key cell culture media and feeds.

Classical cell culture media formulations have been used in labs for decades and are supplemented with serum. Here are some common classical media:

Animal-derived component-free (ADCF) media

ADCF media are free of animal-derived components, including components obtained from microbes such as yeast extract, and don’t require serum. They support high cell yield and production of biologics with the desired quality attributes. ADCF media from Cytiva are also usually protein free and chemically defined. ADCF media are often used when cells are cultivated in fed-batch mode. Feed supplements are typically added to give cells the fuel they need to keep growing over time.

Chemically defined (CD) cell culture media

A chemically defined medium has a known composition. CD media don’t contain animal-derived components, and they don’t require either fetal bovine serum or serum alternatives. Because the exact components are known – unlike serum that can have thousands of components that vary between batches – providing consistency and avoiding the introduction of animal viruses into the culture. Like ADCF media, CD media are also frequently used in fed-batch culture processes for biologic production.

Commonly used cell lines for biomanufacturing

Here are the two most common cell types for production of recombinant proteins, including antibodies:

CHO (Chinese hamster ovary)

CHO cells come from epithelial cells from the ovary of the Chinese hamster. These cells are the most common cell type for mammalian cell culture used to produce therapeutic proteins. They're easy to grow on a large scale in cell culture media and support human post-translational modification.

HEK293 (Human embryonic kidney)

Widely used in biotechnology and cell biology, HEK293 comes from human embryonic kidney cells. HEK293 cells grow reliably in cell culture media and have a natural affinity for transfection. HEK293 cells are used to produce therapeutic proteins and viruses for gene therapy.

Choose media with the quality you need

Support your lab or manufacturing facility with high-quality cell culture media for CHO cell lines and other cell types. If you’re looking for chemically defined and animal-derived component-free media, check out our specialty media.