Difference Between PBS and HBSS

PBS is a phosphate-buffered solution, while HBSS is a balanced salt solution. Both have different ingredients and forms. PBS is mostly found in liquid form, while HBSS can come in powder or liquid form. Recipes for both solutions vary depending on the manufacturer or the available chemicals.

When talking about cell biology or biochemistry, saline solution is common. Saline is especially needed for tests. Two common saline solutions are PBS and HBSS.

Special materials and chemicals are used to obtain them. Both are placed in Petri dishes with cuvettes, but there are still differences.


The main difference between PBS and HBSS is that PBS saline is used in biochemical and molecular biology experiments, while HBSS is used in all biological research. Both are salts and help maintain a neutral pH, but they are made of different materials.

“PBS” stands for phosphate buffered saline and HBSS stands for Hank’s balanced salt solution. These are two forms of salt with special substances or chemicals added to achieve their purpose.

In biological experiments, both solutions are placed in Petri dishes containing cells or tissue. A solution contains cells or tissue to be examined or used during an activity.

As the name suggests, phosphate-buffered saline is a buffer solution. Maintain neutral pH so as not to destroy cells or tissue samples and try to maintain cell osmolarity. It is also non-toxic to cells.

Difference Between PBS and HBSS

A buffer is a mixture of a “weak” base or acid and its corresponding conjugate acid or base. Buffers are usually added to another solution to maintain a specific pH. In addition to the buffer role, it is also used to dilute materials and wash containers used to store cells for effective hygiene.

On the other hand, Hank’s balanced salt solution is also an isotonic solution designed to maintain a specific pH and osmotic pressure of the sample. It provides the cells or sample tissue with enough salt ions to balance the intracellular water content. This preserves the sample in its natural state and structure. Supplying an inappropriate amount of salt ions to the solution can cause the cell to shrink or burst.

The main components of phosphate buffer are water, sodium chloride, and sodium phosphate. Potassium chloride and potassium phosphate are added in some recipes. here is the guide to making PBS Buffer.

On the other hand, the main components of Hank’s balanced salt solution are sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and chloride.

Different compounds include potassium chloride, disodium hydrogen phosphate, potassium dihydrogen phosphate, sodium formate, calcium chloride, magnesium chloride, and sodium chloride. Another ingredient is glucose. Other ingredients may include hydrated magnesium sulfate (MgSO4*7H2O) and sodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3).

There are risks involved in making Hank’s balanced salt solution, so many people prefer to buy it instead of making it. It depends a lot on the user or the company creating the solution. Follow this Guide to make HBSS Buffer.

Both solutions can be mixed commercially or prepared and purchased in the laboratory. PBS is often in liquid form, while HBSS is in liquid or powder form.

Comparison Table Between PBS and HBSS

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.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 buffered salt solution that helps maintain a constant pH in a sample. The water level and ionic concentrations of the PBS solutions correspond to the human body, which means that PBS solutions are isotonic in nature.

Since PBS solutions are non-toxic to cells, they have many uses including substance dilution and detachment of clumped cells, etc. In recent years, PBS solutions have been in great demand as they are used as an alternative to viral transport media for RNA storage in viruses including SARS-CoV-2 or Coronavirus.

A PBS solution can be prepared by various methods. When the buffer is used on living tissue, the preparation requires potassium chloride or magnesium chloride, while when the buffer is used on fixed tissue, neither potassium chloride nor magnesium chloride is required. During the preparation, the pH value can be adjusted with hydrochloric acid or sodium hydroxide.

The most common components of a PBS solution are NaCl, KCl, Na2HPO4, and KH2PO4 in precisely calculated amounts. PBS solutions can also be prepared using commercially manufactured PBS-buffered 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 biologist John H. Hanks, who formulated it in 1940. This solution is used as a buffering system in cell culture and helps maintain optimal pH or cell growth. The optimum pH values are between 7.0 and 7.4.

Because HBBS solutions contain glucose and sodium bicarbonate, they are used for short-term cell maintenance outside of 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 to prepare reagents.

An HBSS solution is prepared from a powdered base medium combined with culture-grade tissue water. The usual components 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 sensitive and are supplied in gamma-irradiated, sterile bottles. HBSS solutions are stored at a low temperature of 4-8 °C and protected from direct light. They are also more dangerous to manufacture compared to PBS solutions because human cells contain biologically hazardous materials.

Main Difference Between PBS and HBSS

  1. A PBS solution is generally easier to prepare, while the manufacturing process of an HBSS solution can be hazardous and extra precautions are therefore important.
  2. PBS solutions can be stored at a temperature ranging from 15 to 30°C while HBSS solutions are stored at a temperature ranging from 4 to 8°C.
  3. PBS solutions can only be made in liquid form while HBSS solutions can be made in both liquid and powder form.
  4. PBS solutions are pure by default. On the other hand, HBSS solutions must be checked for bacterial or fungal contamination.
  5. PBS solutions are non-toxic to cells while HBSS can cause cell death.

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