Conceptual art of a cow and calf overlayed on a cell

Bovine serum is categorized based on the age of the animal from which it is collected. The animal’s age can impact the composition of the serum, making age an important consideration when selecting serum for your cell culture experiments.

Thermo Fisher Scientific offers a range of bovine sera products, including newborn calf, bovine calf, and adult serum, most of which are processed and manufactured in New Zealand. Bovine serum is also available in heat-inactivated and non-heat inactivated formats.

Order newborn calf serum

Order other bovine sera (bovine calf serum, adult bovine serum, and donor bovine serum)

Newborn calf serum and bovine calf serum vs FBS

Compared to bovine calf serum and newborn calf serum, fetal bovine serum (FBS) tends to be lower in antibodies and richer in growth factors, making FBS the most common choice for cell culture by scientists worldwide [1]. Differences in composition between FBS and calf sera should be carefully considered when determining what is best for your cell culture.

Despite their differences from FBS, other forms of bovine sera can serve as viable alternatives for cell culture, providing the appropriate factors for cell growth and viability. If considering changing the serum in your cell culture medium, always test your cell line for compatibility [1].

Comparisons of bovine sera

Comparisons of cell line growth, viability, and behavior using FBS, donor bovine serum (DBS), and newborn bovine calf serum (NBCS) indicate that, in some cell lines, DBS and NBCS are comparable to FBS in performance. However, in other instances, FBS may be the better choice.

 Cell growth and viabilityCell behavior in downstream assay
HepG2****** ********NA

Performance of FBS was considered the highest (denoted by ****). Performance of all other sera as compared to FBS was denoted accordingly. NA indicates that the assay was not performed.

What are calf serum and adult bovine serum used for?

Two adult cows in a field

In certain applications, newborn calf serum or adult bovine serum can be supplemented into cell culture media in lieu of FBS. Several studies have utilized other types of bovine sera in their experiments.

Applied uses of newborn calf serum include:

  • the expansion of suspension peripheral blood mononucleated stem cells (PBMNSCs) [2]
  • the culture of fish cells [3]

Bovine calf serum has been used as:

  • a viable alternative to fetal bovine serum (FBS) in the growth promotion and cloning efficiency of Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells used in the HGPRT mutation assay [4]
  • a supplement in the cultivation of Plasmodium Falciparum: neopeptone and proteose-peptone no.3 added together with calf serum gave parasite growth rates comparable to, or surpassing, those obtained with human serum [5]

Cited uses of adult bovine serum include:

  • the growth of G. intestinalis trophozoites for studies of this intestinal parasite [6]
  • the culture of mouse mammary epithelial cells for studies of prolonged TGFβ exposure on cancer development [7]

Bovine sera quality control

To help ensure quality, each lot of Gibco sera undergoes testing for its ability to support the growth of VERO cells over three subcultures. At each passage, the cells are subcultured to the original cell-inoculation density. Results are compared to those obtained using control growth medium with a previously characterized reference serum.



Fetal Bovine Serum Basics
Learn the basics of FBS for cell culture, including information on the FBS uses, components, and the market dynamics driving this industry.

Cell Culture Basics
Learn the fundamentals of cell culture for achieving consistent results, including laboratory setup, safety, and aseptic techniques.

Gibco iMatch Sera Lot Matching Tool 
Provide your previous Gibco FBS lot number or answer a few questions to find your ideal serum match.

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For Research Use or Further Manufacturing Use only. Serum and blood proteins are not for direct administration into humans or animals.

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