Milk-derived growth factors as serum supplements for the growth of fibroblast and epithelial cells

David A. Belford, Mary Louise Rogers, Geoffrey O. Regester, Geoffrey L. Francis, Geoffrey W. Smithers, Ingrid J. Liepe, Ilka K. Priebe, F. John Ballard

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59 Citations (Scopus)


We have investigated the response of several epithelial and fibroblastic cells to a mitogenic extract of bovine milk. Cation exchange chromatography was used to produce a mitogen-rich fraction from an industrial whey source that, although comprising only 0.5% of total whey protein, contained the bulk of the growth factor activity. This fraction was a source of potent growth promoting activity for all mesodermal-derived cells tested, including human skin and embryonic lung fibroblasts, Balb/c 3T3 fibroblasts, and rat L6 myoblasts. Maximal growth of all these cell types exceeded that observed in 10% fetal bovine serum. Feline kidney and baby hamster fibroblasts and Chinese hamster ovary cells were less responsive, achieving a maximal growth response of 50-75% that observed in 10% fetal bovine serum. Maximal growth achieved in whey-extract-supplemented cultures of Balb/c 3T3 and human skin fibroblasts, and L6 myoblast cultures exceeded that seen in response to recombinant acidic or basic fibroblast growth factor, platelet-derived growth factor, insulin-like growth factor, or epidermal growth factor. Importantly, addition of low concentrations of fetal bovine serum to the whey-derived mitogenic fraction produced an additive response. However, concentrated milk-derived factors were found to be inhibitory to the growth of all epithelial lines tested, including rat intestinal epithelial cells, canine kidney epithelial cells, and mink lung cells. It is concluded that industrial whey extracted in this form constitutes an important source of potent growth-promoting agents for the supplementation of mesodermal-derived cell cultures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)752-760
Number of pages9
JournalIn Vitro Cellular & Developmental Biology - Animal
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 1995
Externally publishedYes


  • cell growth
  • FBS-supplement
  • growth factors
  • whey


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