The Chemical Compliance Coach for Fetal Calf Serum-free chemicals testing

The Chemical Compliance Coach stands for scientific integrity, regulatory compliance and social responsibility. As animal welfare is of great importance to us, we seek to actively support (scientific) developments leading to a future of animal free chemicals testing. As of 2018, we support the 3Rs Database programme of the 3Rs-Centre Utrecht Life Sciences, part of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine at Utrecht University, which aims to Reduce, Refine and Replace laboratory animal experimentation. Specifically, our financial donations benefit the maintenance and updating of the Fetal Calf Serum (FCS)-free Database.

 

Paving the way to animal free testing methods

Regulatory schemes such as REACH and the Biocidal Products Regulation stipulate the testing of chemicals for various adverse effects on human health and the environment. The Chemical Compliance Coach does not perform such tests in house, but commissions these within its network of partner laboratories. Although in certain cases it is obligatory to generate data with tests on living animals (“in vivo”), validated in chemico and in vitro (“in the glass”) methods are used where possible.

 

In vitro testing and Fetal Calf Serum

To grow cells in petri dishes, cell culture media must mimic in vivo conditions. Cell culture media are typically composed of various nutrients and supplemented with Fetal Calf Serum (FCS, also known as Fetal Bovine Serum, FBS) to add embryonic growth promoting factors. Therefore, though in vitro test are performed on cultured cells or tissues rather than laboratory animals, methods are generally not 100% animal free. An example of such method is the h-CLAT (OECD 442E), which – unlike the classical methods – does not employ guinea-pigs to measure allergic skin reactions, but still requires culture medium supplementation with 10% FCS.

 

Ethical and scientific concerns

FBS is obtained from blood collected aseptically by heart puncture from living bovine foetuses that are removed from pregnant cows during slaughter. Despite the fact that this procedure has a high potential for suffering, it is not yet adequately legally regulated. Further, since FCS is of biological origin, it is highly variable in composition and contaminations, which impedes the accuracy and reproducibility of test results. These ethical and scientific concerns demonstrate the urgency to switch to FCS-free media.

 

FCS-free Database

The FCS-free Database provides an ever-growing inventory of FCS-free cell culture media and facilitates the discussion of the applicability of each product. Freely accessible to researchers in both academia and industry, it stimulates the standardisation, rigorous validation and – ultimately – regulatory acceptance of serum-free media. The Chemical Compliance Coach is convinced that the use of FCS-free cell culture media is desirable as well as obtainable in the (near) future, and is proud to support the FCS-free Database (fcs-free.org).