Appropriate Extracellular Matrix (ECM) Mimicking Surfaces Aid In The Establishment Of Serum-Free Cell Culture Media
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Fetal bovine serum (FBS) is very commonly used in cell culture practices as a highly nutrient-rich supplement. The search for alternatives for FBS and the development of chemically defined media is gaining more attraction due to several ethical and scientific issues. FBS harvest may cause suffering to the calf fetus and compromise the reproducibility of cell culture experiments. Attachment factors are also provided by FBS. These attachment factors are absorbed onto the culture surface and support the binding of adherent cells. Therefore, the use of serum-free media often requires a specific surface coating in order to provide an environment in which adherent cells can bind. Specific culture surfaces play essential roles in promoting cell proliferation and the maintenance of cell function. This review discusses the concerns regarding FBS and alternatives for FBS, with a focus on cell culture surfaces that can aid in the development of serum-free media. Typically, mimicking the natural extracellular matrix (ECM) of the cell type of interest provides a suitable surface coating for in vitro culture. Mimicking ECM components can be done in various ways, such as coating culture dishes with ECM-derived proteins or decellularized ECM from tissues. More synthetic options are also available where specific cell-binding peptides or glycosaminoglycan chains are functionalized onto the culture surface or onto hydrogels. An accurate ECM mimicking surface can enhance the efficiency of serum-free media and thereby improve cell culture in a reproducible manner.