London: In a first, scientists have developed a life-like, 3D model of mammary gland which mimics the structure and function of the real organ, an advance that may help better understand the mechanisms of breast cancer.
Using a cocktail of growth factors, researchers from Cardiff University in the UK and Monash University in the Australia were able to grow mouse mammary cells into three-dimensional mammary tissue.
Known as an ‘organoid’, the model mimics the structure and function of a real mammary gland.
This enables researchers to increase their understanding of how breast tissue develops, and provides an active model for the study of disease and drug screening.
As well as determining how to grow these life-like mammary glands, researchers also discovered how to maintain them in culture to allow ongoing experimentation – the first time this has been developed in a laboratory.
“Much of how breast tissues respond to external stimuli such as hormones is, as yet, unknown,” said Trevor Dale of Cardiff University.
“In order to fully tackle the mechanisms that lie behind breast cancer we first need to understand how healthy breast tissue develops,” Dale said.
“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,” he said.
“This model allows us to really study the basic biology of how the breast develops – how hormones work, what are the genetic influences,” said Thierry Jarde, from the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute.
“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,” Jarde said.
The findings were published in the journal Nature Communications.