Bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stromal cells (BM-MSCs) are gaining increasing importance in the field of regenerative medicine. Although therapeutic value of MSCs is now being established through many clinical trials, issues have been raised regarding their expansion as per regulatory guidelines. Fetal bovine serum usage in cell therapy poses difficulties due to its less-defined, highly variable composition and safety issues. Hence, there is a need for transition from serum-based to serum-free media (SFM). Since SFM are cell type-specific, a precise analysis of the properties of MSCs cultured in SFM is required to determine the most suitable one. Six different commercially available low serum/SFM with two different seeding densities were evaluated to explore their ability to support the growth and expansion of BM-MSCs and assess the characteristics of BM-MSCs cultured in these media. Except for one of the SFM, all other media tested supported the growth of BM-MSCs at a low seeding density. No significant differences were observed in the expression of MSC specific markers among the various media tested. In contrary, the population doubling time, cell yield, potency, colony-forming ability, differentiation potential, and immunosuppressive properties of MSCs varied with one another. We show that SFM tested supports the growth and expansion of BM-MSCs even at low seeding density and may serve as possible replacement for animal-derived serum.
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