Species Specific Growth Factor Testing

When developing a growth factor, media formulation, or any tool or technology designed to be used in the culturing and production of animal cell lines, it is imperative to use a species-specific cell line model in your lab to generate physiologically relevant data on how your innovation will interact with the cell systems that will be used in production.

The Problem

There is a glaring oversight in the way we think about developing growth factors or media formulations for use in bioproduction: a lack of species-specific cell line models to generate physiologically relevant data for product development.

The Challenge

The assumption is that how your growth factor works on a model cell line. For example a murine C2C12 line or a variable division limited primary cell line. Neither will provide data that predicts the efficacy of your growth factor on a cell line of a different animal species nor on cell lines used in production. The biological differences between different cell lines, let alone between different species, means that using non-species specific cell line models will lead to skewed data, unnecessary headaches and a lot of wasted time.

In plain English: Testing your growth factor on a cell line model that isn’t representative of what your customer or partner is not the best idea.

This is undesirable due to:

  • Inconsistency - data generated on a model cell line might be enough to pique a partner's interest. But the proof is in the pudding. If your growth factors don’t actually work with their cell lines. You’re up a creek without a paddle.
  • Lack of industry relevance - if you’re aiming to launch a growth factor (product), you should probably develop said product on a cell line representative of what’s being used in industry. Not whatever you can find in your labs liquid nitrogen dewar.


Enter the species-specific cell line model. Dragon Bio has developed a panel of industry-relevant, immortalized cell lines of different lineages (from iPSCs to adipocyte-derived stem cells) to empower you to do species-specific testing.

Using a species specific cell line provides a physiologically relevant model of how your partner's cells will likely behave in culture or a bioproduction system. Enabling you to generate performance data on your growth factors that is both reliable for your target species, and directly applicable to your research partner and customers.

This doesn’t just solve the problem though. It elevates your science, allowing you to develop robust data sets and generate breakthroughs in foundational R&D that were previously obscured by poorly translatable models.


In a benchmarking study with QKine (Cambridge, UK), our team demonstrated the efficacy of QKine’s porcine growth factors using Dragon’s porcine induced pluripotent stem cell line (for the full dataset, here's a link to our Application Note).

Porcine induced pluripotent stem cells (piPSCs) have many desirable characteristics including self-renewal and the ability to differentiate into fat and muscle, making them a candidate cell type for a variety of cultivated meat applications. However, developing a correct medium formulation for piPSCs is critical for maintaining their pluripotency during long-term cell culture.

QKine developed three porcine specific growth factors - FGF2, TGFβ1 and Activin A - that should when added to culture media maintain piPSCs pluripotency during culture. Using Dragon’s piPSC cell line, we performed bioactivity studies that validated the efficacy of several of QKine’s growth factors.

Figure 1: piPSCs cultured with Qkine FGF2 variants. piPSCs were cultured in medium supplemented with 100ng/ml QKine FGF2. A) Brightfield microscopy images. B) Growth curves. C) Gene expression analysis of pluripotency markers (OCT4/SOX2).

When developing a growth factor, or any enabling tool or technology for a cell culture application. Getting reliable data to feed back into your technical development is paramount. You need accurate data to accurately assess what works and what you can improve on to enhanced your products functionality in a reliably predictive way. Thereby not wasting time iterating your products on unrepresentative cell lines.