Gibco Fetal Bovine Serum (FBS)

What is fetal bovine serum (FBS)?

  • Serum is the amber-colored blood fraction remaining after the natural coagulation of blood; it is typically further refined via centrifugation, which serves to remove remaining blood cells
  • Fetal bovine serum (FBS) is the serum derived from blood drawn from a bovine fetus via a closed system of collection

What is FBS used for?

  • Fetal bovine serum (FBS) is used as a growth supplement for the in vitro cell culture of eukaryotic cells. Animal sera—both bovine and non-bovine sera—are used in cell culture applications with the most widely used being fetal bovine serum (FBS).
  • FBS contains growth factors and very low levels of antibodies, allowing for versatility in many different cell culture applications. There are 1000+ components found in FBS, including proteins, electrolytes, lipids, carbohydrates, hormones, enzymes, and other undefined constituents, which are necessary in many culture conditions to support cell growth.

Who uses FBS?

  • Both academic and industrial researchers and scientists in manufacturing environments use fetal bovine serum (FBS) in their cell culture media for investigations including biotechnology research/production, vaccine manufacturing, cloning and animal diagnostics.
Scientist pipetting Gibco Fetal Bovine Serum (FBS) in clean hood

FBS promotes robust culture

Fetal bovine serum (FBS) provides the most robust culture system for the widest range of cell types both cell lines and primary cells.

FBS is a source of:

  • Growth and attachment factors for cells
  • Lipids
  • Hormones
  • Nutrients and energy sources necessary for growth
  • Carriers
  • Buffering capacity/protection – pH shifts, proteases, toxins
  • Binding and transfer proteins

It’s important to note:

  • Typically used at a concentration of 5–10% in a basal medium
  • FBS composition is undefined, and varies from lot-to-lot
Scientist pipetting Gibco DMEM into culture dish

Important factors to consider in FBS selection

FBS protects cells from:

  • Large pH shifts
  • Proteases
  • Toxic agents
  • Shear forces
  • Agents that would typically break up monolayers of adherent cells (FBS acts to inactivate these agents)

Cell growth in the presence of quality FBS is typically:

  • Rapid
  • Consistent and reproducible
  • Lacking in undesirable changes in differentiation
  • Not hampered by the introduction of detrimental contaminants

Researcher’s primary concerns regarding FBS:

  • Supply continuity
  • Lot-to-lot consistency
  • Reproducible results
  • Price fluctuation
  • Product integrity

Market scenarios that drive FBS availability and price

FBS cow

Fetal bovine serum (FBS) is a byproduct of the meat industry. No one can influence the amount of FBS available. Drought, high feed prices and high beef demand leads to more available FBS. When farmers are rebuilding their herds, there is less FBS on the market. The result? The price and availability of FBS can be difficult to predict.

This video explains the market dynamics of the FBS/sera industry on how there are many aspects (i.e., climate) that impact the industry, especially the price.


Important terms to know when evaluating FBS

Terms Definitions
9CFR virus testing Virus panel testing according Code of Federal Regulations, (CFR), Title 9, Part 113.53 (c) [113.46, 113.47]. Detected by fluorescent antibody.
Biochemical and hormone profile Quantification of biochemical and hormonal (estradiol, insulin, progesterone, testosterone, and thyroxine) profiling that may have impact on cell culture.
BSE status BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) is a disease for which the OIE (The World Organisation for Animal Health) has established official recognition of the sanitary status of countries and zones. Regions that have negligible risk of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease) have lesser biosafety risk for import.
EMA virus testing Virus panel testing according Code of Federal Regulations, (CFR), Title 9, Part 113.53 (c) [113.46, 113.47]. Detected by fluorescent antibody.
Endotoxin testing Endotoxin is directly related to the quality of collection and processing of serum, the higher the level, the more introduction to gram-negative bacteria. 
Filtration Triple (0.1 µm) filtration: Aseptic process that has been validated to ensure that all products meet the industry standard sterility assurance level of 10-3.
Haemoglobin/hemoglobin Indicator of proper and/or improper collection and processing of blood and/or serum. 
Mycoplasma and Mycoplasma supplemental testing (H-Stain) Direct culture and Hoescht stain. Testing indicates Mycoplasma - Not Detected.
Origin confirmation We use a proprietary sera fingerprinting technology for Gibco sera to confirm FBS origin and eliminate the potential for counterfeit product. Learn more
Osmolality Osmolality of FBS, a measure of the concentration of solutes like salts and sugars, should be similar to culture media to avoid osmotic shock that may impact cell viability.
Performance: relative growth promotion (RGP)  The growth promotion assay measures the ability of each FBS lot to support proliferation of fastidious human diploid fibroblasts through multiple subcultures.
pH: relative pH promotion Serum acts as a buffer in the cell culture system; the pH is tested to ensure accurate cell culture quality and performance.
Total protein FBS is rich in a variety of proteins that can impact cultured cells; the total protein in serum is measured by taking a chemistry panel of the serum.
Traceability Complete traceability back to original source. ISIA Traceability Certified. Learn more

Standard bovine definitions

Terms Definitions
Serum Serum is the liquid fraction of clotted blood. It is depleted of cells, fibrin and clotting factors. Serum differs from plasma in that anti-coagulant is never added to the blood after collection from the animal. Serum is prepared by centrifuging until the clot and remaining blood cells are separated from the liquid phase. The serum is then removed and stored frozen pending further processing.
Fetal Bovine Serum Semi-processed Fetal Bovine Serum Fetal bovine serum (FBS) is obtained as described above from the blood of fetuses of healthy, pre-partum bovine dams that have been ante- and/or post-mortem veterinary inspection. It is collected in abattoirs inspected by the competent authority in the country of origin. Fetal blood is collected aseptically using cardiac puncture, thereby reducing the risk of microbial contamination and resultant endotoxins. Collection occurs in an area of the abattoir specifically set aside for this purpose to minimize the risk of contamination by other fluids.
Specialty Fetal Bovine Serum This is semi-processed FBS or sterile filtered FBS that has been subjected to one or more modification processes.  Examples are Dialyzed, Charcoal Stripped, Ultra-low IgG, ES Cell, MSC and Exosome-Depleted. 
Newborn Calf Serum Newborn Calf Serum (NBCS) is defined as the liquid fraction of clotted blood derived from healthy, slaughtered bovine calves aged less than 20 days, deemed fit for human consumption through ante- and/or post- mortem inspection. It is collected in abattoirs inspected by the competent authority of the country of origin. There are no deletions or additions (including preservatives) allowed.
Donor Bovine Serum (also known Donor Calf Serum) Donor-sourced Bovine Serum (DBS) is defined as the liquid fraction of clotted blood derived from healthy cattle 12 months of age or older from controlled donor herds whose health status is confirmed by regular inspection by competent, legally authorized veterinarians. 
Bovine Serum (also known as Adult Bovine or Calf Serum) Bovine Serum is defined as the liquid fraction of clotted blood derived from healthy, slaughtered cattle 12 months of age or older, deemed to be fit for human consumption by ante- and/or post- mortem inspection. It is collected in abattoirs inspected by the competent authority of the country of origin. 

Customer stories using fetal bovine serum

Watch the videos: Gibco FBS—the benefits of using our serum for your research

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