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Biotechnology - Oncology - Pathology - Physics - Physiology

Longitudinal Study of Mammary Epithelial and Fibroblast Co-Cultures Using Optical Coherence Tomography Reveals Morphological Hallmarks of Pre-Malignancy
Published: Monday, November 12, 2012
Author: Raghav K. Chhetri et al.

by Raghav K. Chhetri, Zachary F. Phillips, Melissa A. Troester, Amy L. Oldenburg

The human mammary gland is a complex and heterogeneous organ, where the interactions between mammary epithelial cells (MEC) and stromal fibroblasts are known to regulate normal biology and tumorigenesis. We aimed to longitudinally evaluate morphology and size of organoids in 3D co-cultures of normal (MCF10A) or pre-malignant ( MEC and hTERT-immortalized fibroblasts from reduction mammoplasty (RMF). This co-culture model, based on an isogenic panel of cell lines, can yield insights to understand breast cancer progression. However, 3D cultures pose challenges for quantitative assessment and imaging, especially when the goal is to measure the same organoid structures over time. Using optical coherence tomography (OCT) as a non-invasive method to longitudinally quantify morphological changes, we found that OCT provides excellent visualization of MEC-fibroblast co-cultures as they form ductal acini and remodel over time. Different concentrations of fibroblasts and MEC reflecting reported physiological ratios [1] were evaluated, and we found that larger, hollower, and more aspherical acini were formed only by pre-malignant MEC ( in the presence of fibroblasts, whereas in comparable conditions, normal MEC (MCF10A) acini remained smaller and less aspherical. The ratio of fibroblast to MEC was also influential in determining organoid phenotypes, with higher concentrations of fibroblasts producing more aspherical structures in These findings suggest that stromal-epithelial interactions between fibroblasts and MEC can be modeled in vitro, with OCT imaging as a convenient means of assaying time dependent changes, with the potential for yielding important biological insights about the differences between benign and pre-malignant cells.