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Fetal Bovine Serum-Derived Extracellular Vesicles Persist within Vesicle-Depleted Culture Media


It is known that culture media (CM) promotes cellular growth, adhesion, and protects explanted primary brain cells from in vitro stresses. The fetal bovine serum (FBS) supplement used in most CM, however, contains significant quantities of extracellular vesicles (EVs) that confound quantitative and qualitative analyses from the EVs produced by the cultured cells. We quantitatively tested the ability of common FBS EV-depletion protocols to remove exogenous EVs from FBS-supplemented CM and evaluated the influence such methods have on primary astrocyte culture growth and viability. We assessed two methodologies utilized for FBS EV removal prior to adding to CM: (1) an 18-h ultracentrifugation (UC); and (2) a commercial EV-depleted FBS (Exo-FBS™). Our analysis demonstrated that Exo-FBS™ CM provided the largest depletion (75%) of total FBS EVs, while still providing 6.92 × 10⁸ ± 1.39 × 10⁸ EVs/mL. In addition, both UC and Exo-FBS™ CM resulted in poor primary astrocyte cell growth and viability in culture. The two common FBS EV-depletion methods investigated, therefore, not only contaminate in vitro primary cell-derived EV analyses, but also provide a suboptimal environment for primary astrocyte cell growth and viability. It appears likely that future CM optimization, using a serum-free alternative, might be required to advance analyses of cell-specific EVs isolated in vitro.

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