Comparison: VitroGel® Hydrogels vs. Animal-based ECMs

VitroGel® offers a defined synthetic hydrogel system that closely mimics the natural ECM environment without animal or human components. This system gives researchers control over mechanical strength, functional ligands, and degradability, allowing for the creation of precise biomimetic environments tailored for various applications in drug discovery, tissue engineering, and cell therapy.

In contrast, animal-based ECMs suffer from batch-to-batch inconsistency and contain over 2,000 undefined components, highlighting the superior consistency and defined nature of the VitroGel system for advanced biomedical research and development.

Stable at Room Temperature

VitroGel® Hydrogels
Ready-to-use at room temperature operation.

Animal-Based ECM
Requires cold temperature for operation.

VitroGel® hydrogels are stable at room temperature and remain in a free-flowing liquid, making them easy to handle. VitroGel® gelation does not depend on temperature or require an activation agent. Instead, gelation occurs through interactions with the cell culture medium’s ionic molecules, such as Ca2+ and Na+.
Learn how gelation works >

Compared to animal-based ECM, there is no need for an ice bucket or the urgency to use it quickly due to temperature fluctuations that can cause gelation. Animal-based ECM requires cold temperatures for setup, operation, and shipping, which increases costs overall.

VitroGel® Hydrogel
Easy to use, most protocols can be performed in 20 minutes.

Animal-Based ECM
2-hour protocol and requires cold temperature set-up and operation.

The VitroGel® hydrogel system is simple to use and most 3D cell culture protocols can be performed in 20 minutes. There is no cross-linking step required.  Just mix with cells, add medium, and incubate. This hydrogel also enables easy cell harvesting when used with our enzyme-free cell recovery solution which harvest cells fast while maintaining high cell viability.


Using animal-based ECM requires a longer setup and protocol time because it requires careful handling and preparation, including thawing at a controlled temperature. To prevent premature gelation, animal-based ECM usually requires a low temperature to maintain its liquid state.

VitroGel®
Synthetic, xeno-free hydrogels.

Animal-Based ECM
Over 2,000 undefined components. Extracted from Murine Engelbreth-Holm-Swarm Sarcoma (EHS) tumor.

VitroGel® hydrogel system is 100% synthetic, animal, and human origin-free. VitroGel® hydrogels provide a well-defined and complete microenvironment control for consistent results by avoiding the uncertainty of unknown components from animal-based ECM. Researchers fully control the system by knowing what growth factors and supplements are added.  In addition, the synthetic system allows for better lot-to-lot consistency for more reproducible assays.​

Animal-based ECM can contain over 2,000 undefined components extracted from EHS tumors, often resulting in batch-to-batch inconsistency. Additionally, producing one vial of basement membrane typically requires seven mice.

VitroGel® ensures a more consistent and reproducible 3D cell culture while being a more ethical alternative to animal-based ECM.

VitroGel® Hydrogels
Adjustable hydrogel mechanical strength to study cell behavior.

Animal-Based ECM
Difficult to evaluate the stiffness of the ECM on cell behaviors.

With the tunable VitroGel® High Concentration hydrogels, the hydrogel mechanical strength/stiffness (from 10 to 4,000 Pa) can be adjusted to accommodate and study different cell culture applications.

The VitroGel® High Concentration hydrogels can be mixed and matched, allowing users to create a customized and multi-functional hydrogel that meets their specific research or application requirements. The hydrogels come with several types of functional ligand modifications such as RGD (VitroGel® RGD), Collagen (VitroGel® COL), Laminin (VitroGel® IKVAV & VitroGel® YIGSR), and biodegradable Matrix Metalloproteinase (VitroGel® MMP). The system allows scientists to investigate the cell behaviors in response to an individual functional ligand or create multi-functional hydrogel combinations by blending different versions of VitroGel®.  Explore more>


Animal-based ECMs cannot be easily customized for different mechanical strengths due to the undefined composition derived from EHS mouse sarcoma cells. Modifications may compromise its biological activity, consistency, and reliability.

VitroGel® Hydrogels
has defined components to enable in-depth studies of how functional ligands of the hydrogel affect cell behavior.

Animal-Based ECM
Difficult to evaluate the function of specific ligands on cell behavior due to undefined compounds.

VitroGel®  is highly biocompatible, supports various cell activities, and is safe for in vivo and xenograft models. Due to its defined components, it allows in-depth studies of the function of specific ligands in cell behavior.

Animal-based ECMs have undefined compounds, making it difficult to evaluate the function of ligands on cell behavior.

VitroGel® Hydrogels Transparent, compatible with different imaging systems and downstream analysis.

Animal-Based ECM
undefined components cause noise, interference, and misleading data.

Due to VitroGel® hydrogel’s xeno-free composition, extraneous proteins and bioactive molecules are absent, reducing background noise and improving signal clarity, making it easier to detect target proteins during downstream analysis. The hydrogel’s consistent transparency also ensures reproducibility and compatibility with different imaging systems.
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The abundance of undesired compounds in the animal-based ECM matrix can create a significant noise background for downstream protein analysis, which can cause misleading data or even make some target proteins undetectable. Animal-based ECMs derived from mouse tumors contain residual growth factors and other bioactive molecules that can affect experimental results. 

VitroGel® Hydrogels
Temperature stable. Can be adapted for high throughput automation.

Animal-Based ECM
Temperature instability.  Difficult to adapt to lab automation due to clogging.

VitroGel® hydrogel is room temperature stable, and its unique shear-thinning and rapid recovery rheological properties allow for easy dispensing in laboratory automation and high throughput applications.

Under mechanical shearing force, such as injection through a syringe, the VitroGel® hydrogel performs a gel-sol transition and becomes free-flowing. However, once the shearing force ceases, the mechanical strength of the hydrogel can rapidly recover with a sol-gel transition and become a hydrogel again.

Animal-based ECM must be thawed and maintained in a liquid state at 4°C to prevent premature gelation, which makes it difficult to adapt for lab automation.

VitroGel®  Hydrogels
Open the door for clinical applications

Animal-Based ECM
Unsuitable for medical use

The xeno-free VitroGel® hydrogel enables high-throughput processing to establish 3D organotypic models from cell lines and patient-derived cells. The VitroGel®  hydrogel can be manufactured under cGMP to open the doors for clinical applications.

Animal-derived ECMs with over 2,000 unknown components can never be used for clinical use.

VitroGel®  Hydrogels
No dry ice shipping.
No animal source.

Animal-Based ECM
Requires dry-ice shipping.  Basement membrane from the mouse.

VitroGel® hydrogels do not require dry-ice shipping. A shipment of an animal-based ECM requires overnight shipping and from 2.2 to 12 kg of dry ice, depending on the destination. Where 1 kg of dry ice emits 1 kg of CO2, the carbon footprint reduction is significant compared to thousands of shipments made with animal-based ECMs.

VitroGel® hydrogels are pure synthetic systems. They are a more ethical solution to animal-based ECM. It is said that seven (7) mice are used to make one (1) vial of animal-based ECM.