skip to main content

Choosing the correct growth media

Originally, very basic salt solutions were used to maintain primary mammalian cells. These solutions have since been modified and enriched with amino acids, vitamins, fatty acids and lipids. Consequently, media suitable for supporting the growth of a wide range of cell types is now available. The precise media formulations have often been derived by optimising the concentrations of every constituent.

It is important that researchers use the culture medium recommended for use with the cell line they are working with. The formulation of the culture medium should be checked with the manufacturer’s specifications. Additional reagents or growth factors may need to be added to complete the medium.

In culture medium, glutamine degrades rapidly to toxic ammonia at 37°C. Therefore aliquot your medium before use and only warm and use volumes you need that day. Discard opened bottles of prepared medium containing glutamine after 4-6 weeks.

Consider the type and origin of the serum you add to the culture medium . The most commonly used serum is foetal bovine serum. Other types of serum are available including newborn calf serum and horse serum. Only use serum from a reputable supplier which has undergone various quality control tests (listed in the product information sheet). Most serum products are cell culture tested including growth promotion, cloning efficiency and plating efficiency tests. ECACC only uses serum sourced from countries with a negligible risk of BSE. Historically, serum sourced from Australia, New Zealand and the USA have offered the lowest risk of BSE contamination. It is essential to check the source country of serum used and their BSE risk status. 

January 2020