Did you know? Vegan or cruelty-free alternatives can be found not only in the kitchen, but also in the scientific laboratory. Many experimental techniques rely on animal products, used for cell culture, cell engineering, protein and DNA analyses. One of the examples is fetal bovine serum (FBS), used in cell culture media preparation. Cell culture medium, a mixture of various amino acids, carbohydrates, minerals etc., provides optimal conditions and nutrition for the cells to grow and divide. FBS contains many proteins (e.g. hormones and growth factors) and lipids, supporting cell growth and was considered an essential component of the medium. As the awareness of animal farming environmental impact grows and more and more emphasis is put on ethical aspects of the research, alternative solutions are developed. Researchers may choose FBS-free medium formulations, that have been created, usually highly specific for particular cell lines. Culture medium can be supplemented with human platelet lysate, obtained from expired donated blood, which provides many growth factors and is compatible with human cell cultures. Some plant extracts, e.g. Chlorella vulgaris extracts are also tested as promising growth promoting factors that could be added instead of animal-derived product.
In the picture: This is how BALB/3T3, a mouse fibroblast cell line, cultured as a monolayer looks like. Culture medium was supplemented with FBS.