A team of British and Australian researchers has created a three-dimensional mammary gland model that they say will pave the way for a better understanding of the mechanisms behind breast cancer.

Using a cocktail of growth factors, scientists from Cardiff University, UK, and Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute, in Australia, were able to grow mouse mammary cells into a three-dimensional mammary tissue known as an "organoid."

According to the researchers, the model, which mimics the structure and function of a real mammary gland, will help them boost their understanding of how breast tissue develops and provide an active model for the study of disease and drug screening.

The model mimics the structure and function of a real mammary gland.The model mimics the structure and function of a real mammary gland.In addition to determining how to grow these life-like mammary glands, the researchers also discovered how to maintain them in culture to allow ongoing experimentation—the first time this has been achieved in a laboratory, according to the team.

“Much of how breast tissues respond to external stimuli such as hormones is, as yet, unknown," says Professor Trevor Dale, of the Cardiff University School of Biosciences. "In order to fully tackle the mechanisms that lie behind breast cancer, we first need to understand how healthy breast tissue develops."

The model will allow researchers to study the basic biology of how the breast develops—how hormones work and what the genetic influences are—adds Dr. Thierry Jarde, from the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute.

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