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The cultured mammary organoids express p63 (green) and smooth muscle actin (red). (Credit: Cardiff University)

artificial organs

3D model of mammary gland is breast cancer’s holy grail

Scientists for the first time have created a three-dimensional mammary gland model that could pave the way for a better understanding of the mechanisms of breast cancer.

Apart from figuring out how to grow the glands, researchers also discovered how to maintain them in culture.

The mouse mammary cells were grown into 3D mammary tissue using a cocktail of growth factors, researchers say.

Known as an organoid, the model mimics the structure and function of a real mammary gland and will help increase understanding of how breast tissue develops—and provide an active model to study disease and screen drugs.

“Much of how breast tissues respond to external stimuli such as hormones is, as yet, unknown. In order to fully tackle the mechanisms that lie behind breast cancer we first need to understand how healthy breast tissue develops,” says Trevor Dale, professor of biosciences at Cardiff University. “As such, developing a model of a normal breast with the actual architecture of a mammary gland has long been a ‘holy grail’ for cancer researchers.”

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Apart from figuring out how to grow the glands, researchers also discovered how to maintain them in culture to allow ongoing experimentation—the first time this has been developed in a laboratory.

“This model allows us to really study the basic biology of how the breast develops—how hormones work, what are the genetic influences,” says Thierry Jarde of the Biomedicine Discovery Institute at Monash University.

“Further down the track we hope to use this model in tandem with models of breast cancer in order to carry out effective drug screening.”

The study is published in Nature Communications.

Source: Cardiff University

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