The humane collection of fetal bovine serum and possibilities for serum-free cell and tissue culture

Toxicol In Vitro. 2004 Feb;18(1):1-12. doi: 10.1016/j.tiv.2003.08.009.


Fetal bovine serum (FBS) is a common supplement to in vitro culture media. A workshop was organized to discuss whether or not fetuses might suffer when blood is withdrawn, and to discuss serum replacement methods. When bovine fetuses are exposed after slaughter of the dam, they can suffer only if they inflate their lungs with air and increase their blood oxygen to levels compatible with awareness. Preventing fetuses from breathing air or killing them by an efficient method, according to clearly defined safeguards, ensures that fetal blood collection is humane. Since serum is a supplement of unknown composition, which could be contaminated with unwanted factors, there are scientific and safety reasons for omitting FBS from culture media. Several media have been developed in which minimal or no animal derived components are present. Also, different cell types have been adapted to serum-free media. As yet, no standard serum free media are present, and each cell type requires its own medium composition. Among other recommendations, the establishment of a public database with information on cell types and their serum-free medium composition is proposed.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Experimentation / ethics
  • Animal Experimentation / standards
  • Animal Welfare / ethics
  • Animal Welfare / trends*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Laboratory
  • Blood Specimen Collection / ethics
  • Blood Specimen Collection / methods
  • Blood Specimen Collection / trends
  • Cattle
  • Culture Media, Serum-Free / chemistry*
  • Culture Media, Serum-Free / standards
  • Culture Techniques
  • Fetal Blood / chemistry*
  • Fetal Blood / microbiology
  • Fetal Blood / physiology
  • International Cooperation
  • Moral Obligations
  • Serum / chemistry*
  • Serum / microbiology
  • Serum / physiology


  • Culture Media, Serum-Free