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Tissue geometry plays crucial role in breast cell invasion

BERKELEY - Apropos of National Breast Cancer Awareness month, researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have created a first-of-its-kind model for studying how breast tissue is shaped and structured during development. The model may shed new light on how the misbehavior of only a few cells can facilitate metastatic invasion because it shows that the development of breast tissue, normal or abnormal, is controlled not only by genetics but also by geometry. Though created specifically for the study of breast tissue, this model should also be applicable to the study of tissue development in other organs as well.

"Our results reveal that tissue geometry can control the morphogenesis of breasts and other organs by defining the local cellular branching microenvironment," said Bissell, a Distinguished Scientist with Berkeley Lab's Life Sciences Division, who was the principal investigator for this study. "This finding is important not only for understanding how tissue and organs get their organized shapes and patterns, but may in the future reveal mechanisms to control cancer invasion and metastasis."

In a paper published in the October 13, 2006 issue of the journal Science, Bissell and her collaborators describe a study in which the branching of mouse epithelial tubules (hollow tubes made from epithelial cells that form the network of milk ducts in the mature female breast) in culture were subjected to control through a three-dimensional micropatterned assay. Using a special algorithm to quantify the extent of branching, the researchers found that the geometric shape of the tubules determines where branching takes place. This may potentially affect where and how a malignancy spreads.

The paper is entitled: Tissue Geometry Determines Sites of Mammary Branching Morphogenesis in Organotypic Cultures. Co-authoring the paper with Bissell were Celeste Nelson and Jamie Inman, both member
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Contact: Lynn Yarris
lcyarris@lbl.gov
510-486-5375
DOE/Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
12-Oct-2006


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