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The QIAGEN Guide to Animal Cell Culture

Part III: Cell culture conditions

Welcome to the third of a series of articles providing useful hints for culturing animal cells. This article describes general considerations for cell culture conditions. The series will continue in future issues of QIAGEN News with cell culture protocols, followed by hints for successful transfection.

Media and serum

The choice of cell culture medium is extremely important, and significantly affects the success of cell culture experiments. Different cell types have highly specific growth requirements, and the most suitable medium for each cell type must be determined experimentally. Common basal media include Eagle minimal essential medium (MEM), Dulbeccos modified Eagle medium (DMEM), RPMI 1640, and Ham F10. These contain a mixture of amino acids, glucose, salts, vitamins, and other nutrients, and are available either as a powder or as a liquid from various commercial suppliers.

Basal media are usually supplemented just before use with serum, L-glutamine, and antibiotics and/or fungicides to give complete medium (also called growth medium). Serum is a partially undefined material that contains growth and attachment factors, and may show considerable variation in the ability to support growth of particular cells. Fetal calf serum (FCS) is the most frequenty used serum, but for some applications less expensive sera such as horse or calf serum can be used. Different serum batches should be tested to find the best one for each cell type. L-glutamine is an unstable amino acid that, with time, converts to a form that cannot be used by cells, and should be added to medium just before use. Antibiotics and
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