Public Release: 

Serum-free cultures help transplanted MSCs improve efficacy

Cell Transplantation Center of Excellence for Aging and Brain Repair

Tampa, Fla. (June 28, 2011) - Mensenchymal stem cells (MSCs), multipotent cells identified in bone marrow and other tissues, have been shown to be therapeutically effective in the immunosuppression of T-cells, the regeneration of blood vessels, assisting in skin wound healing, and suppressing chronic airway inflammation in some asthma cases. Typically, when MSCs are being prepared for therapeutic applications, they are cultured in fetal bovine serum.

A study conducted by a research team from Singapore and published in the current issue of Cell Medicine [2(1)], freely available on-line at: , has shown that culturing MSCs in a serum-free media with a 'cocktail" of additives that include growth factors and cytokines, supports cellular growth and increases the potential for adipose and cartilage tissue engineering.

"Our observations that the serum-free media supported cellular growth were attributed to the signaling cascades triggered by the cytokines presented in the serum-free formulation and the interaction with a collagen substrate," said Dr. Saey Tuan Barnabas Ho, corresponding author. "Our findings demonstrate that it is possible to cultivate MSCs in a serum-free environment that enhances the cells' specific differentiation capacities."

The researchers said that the fetal bovine serum commonly used in cell cultures is a "complex mixture" with biochemical effects largely undefined and the "composition varying between serum batches" leading to "inconsistent outcomes." There were also safety concerns with cells cultured in fetal bovine serum because of the "potential presence of viruses, prions and mycoplasms."

The researchers reported that their enhanced, serum-free culture for MSCs aided in the "upregulation of adipogenesis and chondrogenesis."

"There is an impetus to develop an "off the shelf" serum-free media consisting of cytokines," said Dr. Ho.

The use of a cell culture medium that contains known quantities of specific growth factors and other proteins rather than the mixed bag you get with serum-containing media allows for greater control over the fate of the cells", said Dr. Cesar Borlongan, Editor of Cell Medicine and Professor at the University of South Florida Center of Excellence for Aging and Brain Repair. "This study demonstrates that the growth factor-defined, serum-free medium can also improve the cell fate regulation, suggesting that the use of this medium should therefore be encouraged."


Contact: Dr. Saey Tuan Barnabas Ho, National University of Singapore, DSO Building, (Kent Ridge), NUS Tissue Engineering Program
Tel: +98 21 2208 9946 Fax: +98 21 2206 9451 Email:

Citation: Ho, S. T. B.; Tanavde, V. M.; Hui, J. H.; Lee, E. H. Upregulation of Adipogenesis and Chondrogenesis in MSC Serum Free Culture. Cell Med. 2(1):27-41; 2011.

The editorial offices for CELL MEDICINE are at the Center of Excellence for Aging and Brain Repair, College of Medicine, the University of South Florida. Contact, David Eve, PhD. at

News Release by Randolph Fillmore, Florida Science Communications.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.