At the Helmholtz Center in Munich, Germany scientists are now growing three dimensional “mini breasts” derived from individual human epithelial cells.
They have been able to study what kind of tissues are most welcoming for the spread of cancer and are using collagen gels that provide the foundation within which the cells can divide and grow.
By using gels of different rigidities, while they’re not actually growing cancerous injury, the scientists are looking at how normal stem cells are able to do their work in different gel environments. That is because cancer cells take on similar properties as healthy stem cells to multiply and the researchers have already come up with some facts.
The study abstract reads in parts;
“We present an organoid regeneration assay in which freshly isolated human mammary epithelial cells are cultured in adherent or floating collagen gels, corresponding to a rigid or compliant matrix environment. In both conditions, luminal progenitors form spheres, whereas basal cells generate branched ductal structures. In compliant but not rigid collagen gels, branching ducts form alveoli at their tips, express basal and luminal markers at correct positions, and display contractility, which is required for alveologenesis. Thereby, branched structures generated in compliant collagen gels resemble terminal ductal-lobular units (TDLUs), the functional units of the mammary gland. Using the membrane metallo-endopeptidase CD10 as a surface marker enriches for TDLU formation and reveals the presence of stromal cells within the CD49f/EpCAM population. In summary, we describe a defined in vitro assay system to quantify cells with regenerative potential and systematically investigate their interaction with the physical environment at distinct steps of morphogenesis.”