PBS vs HBSS: Difference and Comparison

Saline solutions are common when we talk about cellular biology or biochemistry. Mainly during experiments, saline solutions are necessary.

Two common saline solutions are PBS and HBSS. There are certain ingredients and chemicals used to obtain them. Even though both of them are placed in Petri dishes with a cell, they still have differences.

Key Takeaways

  1. PBS and HBSS are both types of buffers used in biological experiments.
  2. PBS is commonly used for washing cells or diluting antibodies, while HBSS is used for cell culture and preserving tissues.
  3. HBSS contains more ions than PBS, which can affect the outcome of certain experiments.


PBS is a buffered saline solution that is used to maintain a constant pH and ion concentration in experimental systems. HBSS is also a buffered saline solution used in biological and biochemical research. HBSS is used for a variety of applications including cell culture, organ perfusion, and tissue dissection.


PBS stands for Phosphate Buffered Saline. It is a water-based buffer salt solution that helps to maintain a constant pH level in a sample. The pH level of this solution is approximately 7.4. PBS is isotonic in nature and is not toxic to most cells.

HBSS stands for Hank’s Balanced Salt Solution. It is a liquid or powdered solution used to maintain osmolality and pH levels in biological applications.

They are also responsible for the short-term maintenance of cells outside of the growth medium. HBSS is composed of several electrolytes found in the intracellular and extracellular compartments.

Comparison Table

Parameters of ComparisonPBSHBSS
Stands forPhosphate Buffered SalineHank’s Balanced Salt Solution
IngredientsNaCl, KCl, Na2HPO4, KH2PO4.Inorganic salts, glucose or pyruvate, phenol red, and sodium bicarbonate.
FormsMade in liquid form only.It can be made in both liquid and powdered form.
Storage Temperature15-30 Celsius Degrees4-8 Celsius Degrees.
Applicationswashing cells, transporting tissue, diluting cells, and preparing reagents.Mammalian Cell culture, transport media

What is PBS?

PBS stands for Phosphate Buffered Saline. It is a water-based buffer salt solution that helps to maintain a constant pH level in a sample.

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The water level and ion concentrations of the PBS solutions match the human body, which means PBS solutions are isotonic in nature.

Since PBS solutions are not toxic to cells, they have many applications, including substance dilution and disengaging clumped cells, etc.

In recent years, PBS solutions have been in high demand because they are used as an alternative to viral transport medium for the storage of RNA viruses, including SARS-CoV-2 or Corona Virus.

Various methods can make a PBS solution.

If the buffer is used on live tissue, then the preparation needs Pottasium Chloride or Magnesium Chloride whereas if the buffer is used on fixed tissue, then neither Pottasium Chloride nor Magnesium Chloride is required.

While preparing, the pH level can be adjusted using hydrochloric acid or sodium hydroxide.

The most common ingredients of a PBS solution include NaCl, KCl, Na2HPO4, and KH2PO4 in precisely calculated amounts.

PBS solutions can also be prepared by utilizing commercially made PBS buffer tablets or capsules. PBS solutions are stored either at room temperature or in the refrigerator.

What is HBSS?

HBSS stands for Hank’s Balanced Salt Solution. This solution was named after the biologist John H.

Hanks formulated them in 1940. This solution is used as a buffer system in cell culture and helps maintain the optimum pH levels or cellular growth. The optimum pH values range from 7.0 to 7.4.

Since HBBS solutions contain glucose and sodium bicarbonate, so they are used for short-term cell maintenance outside the growth medium.

These solutions are also used for a variety of cell culture applications, such as washing cells, transporting cells, or diluting cells. HBSS solutions formed with calcium and magnesium are used as transport media or for reagent preparation.

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An HBSS solution is prepared from a powdered base medium combined with tissue water of culture grade. The common ingredients of an HBSS solution are inorganic salts, glucose or pyruvate, phenol red, and sodium bicarbonate.

After preparation, samples of HBSS solutions are tested to confirm the absence of bacterial or fungal contamination.

HBSS solutions are delicate and are supplied in gamma-irradiated, sterile bottles. HBSS solutions are stored at a low temperature of 4-8 degrees Celsius and away from direct light.

They are also more dangerous to make as compared to PBS solutions because human cells have bio-hazardous materials.

Main Differences Between PBS and HBSS

  1. A PBS solution is easier to make, whereas an HBSS solution’s preparation process can be dangerous, and hence, extra precautions are important.
  2. PBS solutions can be stored at a temperature ranging from 15 to 30 degrees Celsius, whereas HBSS solutions are stored at a temperature ranging from 4 to 8 degrees Celsius.
  3. PBS solutions can be prepared in liquid form only, while HBSS solutions can be prepared in both liquid and powdered form.
  4. PBS solutions are pure by default. On the other hand, HBSS solutions need to be checked for bacterial or fungal contamination.
  5. PBS solutions are not toxic to cells, whereas HBSS can cause cell death.

  1. https://journals.asm.org/doi/full/10.1128/JCM.00590-20
  2. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1600-9657.1991.tb00187.x

Last Updated : 11 June, 2023

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11 thoughts on “PBS vs HBSS: Difference and Comparison”

  1. It’s wonderful to have such detailed information about PBS and HBSS in one place. The comparison table is especially helpful.

  2. The excessive use of scientific terms might be intimidating for people without a strong background in biology. This may alienate some readers.


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