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Impact of Serum Source on Human Mesenchymal Stem Cell Osteogenic Differentiation in Culture

Popov, Alexander; Scotchford, Colin; Grant, David; Sottile, Virginie


Alexander Popov

Professor of Materials Science

Virginie Sottile


Human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) show promise for musculoskeletal repair applications. Animal-derived serum is extensively used for MSC culture as a source of nutrients, extracellular matrix proteins and growth factors. However, the routine use of fetal calf serum (FCS) is not innocuous due to its animal antigens and ill-defined composition, driving the development of alternatives protocols. The present study sought to reduce exposure to FCS via the transient use of human serum. Transient exposure to animal serum had previously proved successful for the osteogenic differentiation of MSCs, but had not yet been tested with alternative serum sources. Here, human serum supported proliferation of MSCs, which retained surface marker expression and presented higher alkaline phosphatase activity than those in FCS-based medium. Addition of osteogenic supplements supported strong mineralisation over a 3-week treatment. When limiting serum exposure to the first 5 days of treatment, MSCs achieved higher differentiation with human serum than FCS. Finally, human serum analysis revealed significantly higher levels of osteogenic components such as alkaline phosphatase and 25-Hydroxyvitamin D, consistent with the enhanced osteogenic effect. These results indicate that human serum used at the start of the culture offers an efficient replacement for continuous FCS treatment, and could enable short-term exposure to patient-derived serum in the future.


Popov, A., Scotchford, C., Grant, D., & Sottile, V. (2019). Impact of Serum Source on Human Mesenchymal Stem Cell Osteogenic Differentiation in Culture. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 20(20),

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 8, 2019
Online Publication Date Oct 11, 2019
Publication Date Oct 11, 2019
Deposit Date Oct 16, 2019
Publicly Available Date Oct 16, 2019
Journal International Journal of Molecular Sciences
Print ISSN 1661-6596
Electronic ISSN 1422-0067
Publisher MDPI
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 20
Issue 20
Article Number 5051
Keywords Mesenchymal stem cells; human serum; fetal calf serum; in vitro differentiation
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