So, Richmond and Becker are using NASA Bioreactors to fool mammary cells into thinking they are in a normal environment, and thus culture them into larger assemblies whose natural growth can be studied.
At NASA/Marshall, Richmond has established a research program using a unique collection of healthy breast cells that contain a significant genetic weakness towards cancer.
Becker, in collaboration with coworkers at NASA/Johnson, have grown primary breast cancer cells (obtained directly from different surgical specimens) into masses that resemble the original tumor. She hopes to further our understanding of the factors important in the growth and the spread of tumors.
"We have grown noncancerous human breast cells in the NASA Bioreactor," Richmond said. "Our observations suggest there is much to learn and value to be gained from the study of their tissue-equivalent growth."
Culturing of primary breast cancer cells for long periods is rarely achieved in standard tissue culture dishes. With tumor cells from 27 different breast cancer patients, Becker could get only 5 specimens to grow enough to fill the dish. None of the five could then be expanded further when passed to new dishes.
In contrast, however, tumor samples from another five breast cancer patients grew successfully for long periods of time as three-dimensional cocultures in the NASA Bioreactor.
These primary breast tumor cell constructs were grown successfully for up to 3 months, and the cancerous fraction increased. These constructs grew up to 3 mm in diameter, at which point they were remo
Contact: john horack
NASA/Marshall Space Flight Center--Space Sciences Laboratory