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Serum-Free and Animal-Free Cell Culture

The elimination of serum and animal components in culture media is an important step towards a defined cell culture process. Defined media contain only products and materials with known chemical identity such as small molecules, salts, and fatty acids. These media may also include recombinant proteins that are not produced in animal systems.

Incorporating serum-free or animal-free media will benefit your cell culture process in several ways:

  • Improving consistency by reducing variability in media composition
  • Simplifying compliance with regulatory guidelines
  • Simplifying comparability testing if raw material changes are required
  • Reducing time-to-market for your cell product

If you’re not ready for serum-free or animal-free culture, visit our Cell Culture Reagents page for classical media, serum products, and basement membrane extracts.

adherent cells supported by matrix proteins

Serum-Free Cell Culture

Serum-free cell culture media will improve your experimental consistency by reducing the number of unidentified culture components as well as the effects of unknown levels of vitamins, hormones, and growth factors. In addition, serum-free media

  • Reduce the risk of potential viral contaminants that may be present in the serum
  • Reduce the cost and inconvenience of batch testing sera
  • Eliminate uncertainty about global supply fluctuations
  • Simplify purification and downstream processing

These media components do not require supplementation with fetal bovine serum (fetal calf serum; FBS) to support cell survival, proliferation, or function:

adherent cells in serum-free culture

Xeno-Free and Animal-Free Cell Culture

Animal-free media and their components are never exposed to potential contamination by animal products at any point during their manufacturing. In addition to its importance for robust culture processes, adopting animal-free materials also reduces the use of animals in reagent production. These materials support translational research by

  • Eliminating risk of contamination with mammalian pathogens
  • Reducing manufacturing risk by reducing batch failure
  • Eliminating variability due to trace animal components

Xeno-free media may contain human-derived materials such as human serum, holo-transferring, or insulin.

pluripotent stem cells in animal-free culture

Read our complete Animal-Free Statement to learn about our dedicated labs, SOPs, QA protocols for deviations, and certification of BSE and TSE inactivation. The production of animal component-free reagents utilizes animal-free equipment and raw materials outside of our dedicated animal-free laboratories.

iPSC expansion medium, animal component-free

New ExCellerate™ iPSC Expansion Medium

  • Animal component-free
  • No growth factor supplementation required
  • Stable cell integrity over long term culture
animal-free GMP cytokine structure

Animal-Free Cytokines and Growth Factors

  • Preclinical and GMP grades
  • All production lots tested against master lot to control for assay variability
  • Same biological activity as our research grade proteins

The Importance of Serum- and Animal Component-Free Media for Stem Cell-Based Therapeutics

stem cells in culture

Read this article for a discussion covering:

  • Cell culture media: getting it right from the start
  • Advantages of using animal component-free media
  • Where are we now with serum-free alternatives?

Read Our Technology Digest Article at RegMedNet

Specialty Cell Culture

Different lineages of cells require unique media compositions for the cells to proliferate, maintain viability, and retain their correct phenotypes and functions. The following pages provide a wider look into culture media components, differentiation kits, and characterization kits for these specialty cell culture applications.

Custom Cell Culture Manufacturing


Let us help you optimize and standardize your media production and testing. We can save you time and headaches by expediting media production, developing optimized media formulations, and performing specialty media testing.

Our Custom Cell Culture Media Manufacturing and Services team at R&D Systems will work with you on optimizing media and supplement formulation and production, custom labeling, and functional assays for the cell types in your process.