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Purdue team creates 'engineered organ' model for breast cancer research


Lelièvre, whose group is one of the few in the world able to successfully grow the complicated cells that line the mammary ducts, coaxed the cells to grow within the mold and behave as they would within a real human breast.

"The cells within the breast ductal system have a very specific organization that has proven difficult to obtain in a laboratory," Lelièvre said. "The cells have different sides, and one side must face the wall of the duct and the other must face the inner channel. Reproducing this behavior is very challenging, and it had never been achieved on an artificial structure before."

The team coated the mold in a protein-based substance called laminin 111 as a foundation for the cells that allows them to attach to the mold and behave as they would inside the body, Lelièvre said.

Because injecting the delicate cells into the finished channels of the mold caused too much damage, the team created a removable top for the channels.

"The design of the U-shaped channels and top was necessary for us to be able to successfully apply the cells, but it also allows us to make changes quickly and easily for different tests," Lelièvre said. "We can easily introduce changes among the cells or insert a few tumor cells to test the abilities of the nanoparticles to recognize them. The design also makes it very easy to evaluate the results as the entire model fits under a microscope."

A paper detailing the team's work, which was funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, is published in the current issue of Integrative Biology. In addition to Lelièvre and Leary, co-authors include graduate student Meggie Grafton, research associate Lei Wang and postdoctoral researcher Pierre-Alexandre Vidi.

The team has demonstrated that nanoparticles can be moved within the bare channels of the mold filled with fluid, but has not yet moved nanoparticles through the finished model lined

Contact: Elizabeth K. Gardner
Purdue University

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