Insulin-Transferrin-Selenium (ITS): A Vital Supplement for Cell Culture

ITS helps to optimize the culture conditions, promoting cell health and performance without the variability introduced by serum

by | Mar 22, 2024

In the intricate world of cell culture, creating an environment that closely mimics the natural conditions of human tissue is crucial for the success of experiments. One key component that has become a cornerstone in the formulation of cell culture media is Insulin-Transferrin-Selenium, commonly abbreviated as ITS. This supplement plays a pivotal role in promoting cell growth and proliferation. This article explores the composition of ITS, its applications in laboratory settings, and highlights some of the major brands that provide this essential supplement.

What is Insulin-Transferrin-Selenium (ITS)?

ITS is a synergistic blend of three components: insulin, transferrin, and selenium. Each component serves a unique function in cell culture:

  • Insulin: A hormone that promotes glucose uptake and utilization, insulin is critical for providing cells with the energy necessary for growth and division.
  • Transferrin: An iron-binding glycoprotein that transports iron into cells. Iron is a vital mineral for DNA synthesis and cellular metabolism, making transferrin essential for cell proliferation.
  • Selenium: A trace element that acts as a cofactor for antioxidant enzymes like glutathione peroxidases. Selenium protects cells from oxidative damage and supports various metabolic pathways.

Applications in the Laboratory

The combined action of insulin, transferrin, and selenium makes ITS a powerful supplement for enhancing cell culture conditions. Here are some of the key applications:

Promoting Cell Growth and Viability

ITS supplementation is known to significantly improve the growth rate and viability of a wide range of cell types, including stem cells, primary cells, and established cell lines. It is particularly beneficial in serum-free or reduced serum culture conditions, where the absence of serum deprives cells of these critical factors.

Supporting Differentiation and Proliferation

For research focusing on stem cell differentiation or tissue engineering, ITS plays a crucial role in maintaining the phenotypic characteristics of cells and supporting their proliferation. It helps in the development of tissues by providing the necessary biochemical signals.

Enhancing Protein Expression

In the production of recombinant proteins using mammalian cell cultures, ITS supplementation can enhance protein yield by improving cell growth and metabolic activity.

Major Brands and Suppliers

Several biotechnology and life sciences companies have recognized the importance of ITS in cell culture and offer high-quality supplements. Some of the major brands include:

  • Gibco (by Thermo Fisher Scientific): Gibco is renowned for its cell culture products and offers ITS supplements that are widely used in the research community for their consistency and performance.
  • Millipore Sigma: MilliporeSigma provides a range of ITS formulations, including liquid and powder formats, catering to diverse cell culture needs with its high-quality products.
  • Corning: Corning Life Sciences offers ITS supplements as part of their extensive cell culture product portfolio, known for enhancing cell performance and viability.
  • Roche: Known for their contributions to medicine and diagnostics, Roche supplies ITS supplements that support a variety of cell culture applications, ensuring optimal cell growth and function.

This content includes text that has been generated with the assistance of AI. Contract Laboratory’s editorial policy can be found here.


  • Trevor Henderson BSc (HK), MSc, PhD (c), is the Creative Services Director for the Laboratory Products Group at LabX Media Group. He has more than three decades of experience in the fields of scientific and technical writing, editing, and creative content creation. With academic training in the areas of human biology, physical anthropology, and community health, he has a broad skill set of both laboratory and analytical skills. Since 2013, he has been working with LabX Media Group developing content solutions that engage and inform scientists and laboratorians.

    View all posts Director, Creative Services - LabX Media Group

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