Human plasma like cell culture medium forecast to be a gamechanger for cancer and immunology research

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Tobias Buschmann
© GettyImages/Tobias Buschmann

Related tags Cell culture Cancer Immunology

Thermo Fisher Scientific has announced a new, first-of-its-kind human plasma-like cell culture medium that more closely resembles the natural cellular environment found in the human body to provide researchers with a realistic view of cell growth.

The Gibco Human Plasma-like Medium (HPLM) contains the same salt concentrations found in human plasma, as well as the same concentrations of over 60 polar metabolites, such as amino acids, nucleic acids, sugars, and small organic acids, said the company.

A spokesperson for Thermo Fisher Scientific told us the HPLM would primarily be used in cancer and immunology research.

It said that the widely used classic synthetic cell culture media, including MEM, DMEM, RPMI 1640, and DMEM/F-12 contain glucose, amino acids, vitamins, and salts at concentrations that in large part do not reflect those found in human plasma. “These media also lack additional plasma components needed to mimic the metabolic profile of human plasma. When studying cancer and other diseases, results with more physiological relevance will enable researchers to improve their understanding of human function and illness.”

Mimicking human blood 

The inventors of HPLM are Jason R Cantor and David M Sabatini.

“We are proud to work with Jason and David to bring this innovation to market, and excited by the immense possibilities that HPLM could bring across diverse areas of the scientific community,​” added the company.

Cantor commented in 2019: "The recent development of physiologic media, like other efforts designed to address the modeling capacity of cell culture, holds immense potential to improve understanding and interpretation of diverse biological and pharmacological studies."

As a postdoc in the laboratory of David M Sabatini at the Whitehead Institute/MIT in Cambridge, he set out to create a physiologic medium designed to more closely reflect the metabolic composition of human blood, thus permitting the study of cultured cells in biochemical conditions with greater relevance to human physiology.

Cantor and Sabatini reported their development and initial studies using HPLM in early 2017 (Cell)​. They concluded that their discovery should be of broad utility in studying cellular metabolism and “may help reveal new tumor-specific liabilities or metabolite-drug interactions that are influenced by environmental metabolic composition.”

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