, Volume 26, Issue 12, pp 1186-1194

Routine culturing of normal, dysplastic and malignant human mammary epithelial cells from small tissue samples

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We compared the growth and morphology of normal, dysplastic and malignant human mammary epithelial cells (HMEC) in medium containing 5% human serum, a serum-free medium (32) and serum-free medium with a low Ca++ concentration. Tissues were dissociated and epithelial organoids or single cells were seeded onto collagen-coated dishes. The cells grew in serum-containing medium, but growth of fibroblasts was also stimulated. The serum-free medium consistently selected for and stimulated the growth of epithelial cells. There was little advantage in reducing the Ca++ concentration to further increase cell yield. This serum-free primary culture system allows us to routinely prouce sufficient numbers of HMEC from small tissue samples for molecular biological investigations. Furthermore, the maintenance of cells in a defined medium can provide a system for evaluating the direct effects of factors on gene expression.

This work was supported by a grant from the National Cancer Institute of Canada and funds contributed by Mr. B. T. Wharton in memory of his wife, Nadia.