2 August 2017

Fewer animals used for research thanks to new online platform

In vitro research (cell and tissue culture) is generally recognized as a replacement method for animal experiments. However, animals are still indirectly used for this type of research. The serum that is commonly used to grow cells (Fetal Calf Serum, or FCS), is harvested from living bovine foetuses taken from pregnant cows during slaughter. The calves should therefore be regarded as experimental animals. Many scientists are unaware of this fact. Today, the 3Rs-Centre Utrecht Life Sciences and Animal Free Research UK launched a new website that allow researchers to identify FCS-free media: fcs-free.org. The new website will also be promoted next week at the Tenth World Congress Alternatives and Animal Use in the Life Sciences, held in Seattle, USA.  

As long as people use Fetal Calf Serum, in vitro research is not animal free”, says Dr. Jan van der Valk, coordinator of the 3Rs-Centre Utrecht Life Sciences (ULS). Fetal Calf Serum (FCS) is a common supplement to animal cell culture media in which cells are grown in the lab (in vitro). However, FCS is harvested, with a high chance of suffering, from unborn calves. Furthermore, since it is a natural product, the composition of the commercially available FCS varies from batch to batch, which impedes the reproducibility of results. These moral and scientific concerns demonstrate the urgency to switch to an FCS-free medium.

Fewer animals, better science

Identifying and using serum-free media not only replaces animals for research, but also improves the scientific quality of in vitro methods. The website fcs-free.org allows scientists to identify FCS-free media for specific cell types. Furthermore, the website serves as a platform to exchange information on the quality and applicability of each product. The FCS-free Database provides an overview of commercially available serum-free media for cell and tissue culture, as well as medium compositions obtained from scientific literature. The database is offered by the 3Rs-Centre Utrecht Life Sciences (ULS) in collaboration with Animal Free Research UK.

Support our 3Rs activities?

The FCS-free Database is part of the 3Rs database programme, initiated by the 3Rs-Centre ULS to make 3Rs information (on Replacement, Reduction and Refinement of animal experiments) available for free. The programme does not receive any subsidies and its future relies on donations and gifts. In order to guarantee a sustainable future for the websites and increase their impact, the 3Rs database programme is inviting partners who are willing to support its activities. The 3Rs-Centre ULS is part of the faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Utrecht University.