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Lab-grown organoid mimics the development of breast tissue

15 August 2021

Enter the Matrix

Developing organs must grow out into their surroundings, their extracellular matrix – but what are their first steps? Here a lab-grown organoid mimics the growth of a mammary gland, formed from cells donated by healthy human volunteers. Watched over days under a confocal fluorescent microscope (and speeded up here), the breast cells (highlighted in red) appear to rock back and forth – pulses of pushing and pulling that distort the nearby matrix of collagen (white). Not only does this help to create space for the branches of new ducts to grow, but it moulds the collagen into strong cage-like structures, further encouraging growth while supplying nourishing chemicals and support. Scientists may use similar techniques to examine these events in other tissues, including how breast cancers might develop into their own surrounding microenvironment.

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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