October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which helps to increase awareness of the second most common form of cancer in women. In recognition of this international initiative, this week’s Science First highlights exciting work from the Universities of Manchester and Nottingham aimed at developing more realistic and human-relevant in vitro models of breast tissue, which incorporate a novel hydrogel matrix surrounding the breast cells.
Researchers at these universities are planning to identify the main proteins and sugars found in the local microenvironments of different breast tissues, ranging from normal tissue to invasive breast cancer, and then use this information to generate different hydrogels which incorporate these key protein and sugar components of the different tissue types. They will ultimately use these gels to generate multi-cellular 3D models of human breast tissue to better understand the biology of both normal and cancerous breast cells, and learn how the matrix surrounding breast cells facilitates progression of the disease.
The model offers improvements upon existing two-dimensional cell cultures, which do not offer this level of complexity, and addresses issues that arise with animal models of cancer, which have different cell environments than those seen in human patients.
According to Dr. Anthony Howell, co-investigator of the study, “The advance is that complex interactions can now be studied in a highly systematic and reproducible way. Understanding the interactions will potentially lead to new approaches to breast cancer prevention and treatment. Thankfully these experiments are now possible without animal models thus saving animals and on expense.”
We are pleased to see that researchers are continuing to make strides in developing sophisticated, human-relevant in vitro models that have the ability to reduce the use of animals in breast cancer research and other areas of research that strive to construct more human-relevant in vitro models.
-Dr. Pam Osenkowski, Director of Science Programs
Developing a gel that mimics human breast for cancer research to reduce the need for animal models
October 7, 2015
Scientists at the Universities of Manchester and Nottingham have been funded to develop a gel that will match many of the biological structures of human breast tissue, to advance cancer research and reduce animal testing.
For more information see: Phys.org