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Mammary Makers

Modelling the communication between mammary blood vessel and duct cells important in development and disease

26 July 2020

Mammary Makers

While mammary ducts are essential to developing breast tissue and milk production, they are also prone to genetic mutations which may lead to cancer. To investigate, scientists grew these 'model' ducts (highlighted in turquoise) from human mammary cells in the lab, while also recreating their microenvironment of nearby blood vessels (in green with blue nuclei). The middle and right ducts developed from healthy cells mixed with cells harbouring mutations in important genes – with drastic effects on their development and shape compared to the healthy duct (left). Surprisingly, chemicals produced by the mutated ducts affect cells in nearby vessels, leaving them weakened and 'leaky'. Such biology-mimicking models continue to offer perspectives on cancer that may be difficult to investigate in living tissues, and future studies may suggest how chemical messages between these tissues, an example of paracrine signalling, may be switched on or off during development or disease.

Written by John Ankers

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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