Skip to main content
Log in

Growth of normal human mammary cells in culture

  • Published:
In Vitro Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Reduction mammoplasty tissue was used to obtain short-term cultures of human epithelial cell populations. Digestion of tissue with collagenase and hyaluronidase resulted in cell clusters (organoids) resembling ductal and alveolar structures; these could be separated by filtration from the stromal components. Epithelial outgrowth from these organoids was greatly enhanced by the addition of conditioned medium from other human epithelial and myoepithelial cell lines. Additionally, the mammary epithelial growth was stimulated by insulin, hydrocortisone, epidermal growth factor, and steroid hormones. With this enriched nutritional environment, active cell division could be maintained for 1 to 3 months and cells could be serially subcultured 1 to 4 times.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Similar content being viewed by others


  1. Buehring, G. C. 1972. Culture of human mammary epithelial cells: keeping abreast with a new method. J. Natl. Cancer Inst. 49: 1433–1434.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. Gaffney, E. V., F. P. Polanowski, S. E. Blackburn, and J. P. Lambiase. 1976. Origin, concentration and structural features of human mammary gland cells cultured from breast secretions. Cell Tissue Res. 172: 269–279.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. Taylor-Papadimitriou, J., M. Shearer, and M. G. P. Stoker. 1977. Growth requirements of human mammary epithelial cells in culture. Int. J. Cancer 20: 903–908.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Hallowes, R. C., R. Millis, D. Pigott, M. Shearer, M. G. P. Stoker, and J. Taylor-Papadimitriou. 1977. Results on a pilot study of cultures of human lacteal secretions and benign and malignant breast tumors. Clin. Oncol. 3: 81–90.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. Kirkland, W. L., N. Yang, T. Jorgensen, C. Longley, and P. Furmanski. 1979. Growth of normal and malignant human mammary epithelial cells in culture. J. Natl. Cancer Inst. 63: 29–42.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. Gaffney, E. V., F. P. Polanowski, S. E. Blackburn, J. T. Lambiase, and R. E. Burke. 1976. Cultures of normal human mammary cells. Cell Differ. 5: 69–81.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Stoker, M. G. P., D. Pigott, and J. Taylor-Papdimitriou. 1977. Response to epidermal growth factors of cultured human mammary epithelial cells from benign tumors. Nature 264: 764–767.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Gaffney, E. V., and D. Pigott. 1978. Hydrocortisone stimulation of human mammary epithelial cells. In Vitro 14: 621–624.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Flaxman, B. A. 1974. In vitro studies of the normal human mammary gland. J. Invest. Dermatol. 63: 48–57.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Whitescarver, J. 1974. Problems ofin vitro culture of human mammary tumor cells. J. Invest. Dermatol. 63: 58–64.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Hallowes, R. C., P. S. Rudland, R. A. Hawkins, D. J. Lewis, D. Bennett, and H. Durbin. 1977. Comparison of the effects of hormones on DNA synthesis in cell cultures of nonneoplastic and neoplastic mammary epithelium from rats. Cancer Res. 37: 2492–2504.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Sartorius, O. W., H. S. Smith, P. Morris, D. Benedict, and L. Friesen. 1977. Cytological evaluation of breast fluid in the detection of breast disease. J. Natl. Cancer Inst. 59: 1073–1080.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Smith, H. S., R. B. Owens, A. J. Hiller, W. A. Nelson-Rees, and J. O. Johnson. 1976. The biology of human cells in tissue culture. I. Characterization of cells derived from osteogenic sarcomas. Int. J. Cancer 17: 219–234.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Owens, R. B., H. S. Smith, W. A. Nelson-Rees, and E. L. Springer. 1976. Epithelial cell cultures from normal and cancerous human tissues. J. Natl. Cancer Inst. 56: 843–849.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Hackett, A. J., H. S. Smith, E. L. Springer, R. B. Owens, W. A. Nelson-Rees, J. L. Riggs, and M. B. Gardner. 1977. Two syngeneic cell lines from human breast tissue: the aneuploid mammary epithelial (Hs578T) and the diploid myoepithelial (Hs578Bst) cell lines. J. Natl. Cancer Inst. 58: 1795–1806.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. Smith, H. S. 1979.In vitro properties of epithelial cell lines established from human carcinomas and nonmalignant tissue. J. Natl. Cancer Inst. 62: 225–230.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  17. Smith, H. S., E. L. Springer, and A. J. Hackett. 1979. Nuclear ultrastructure of epithelial cell lines derived from human carcinomas and nonmalignant tissues. Cancer Res. 39: 332–344.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. Ozzello, L. 1974. Electron microscope study of functional and dysfunctional human mammary glands. J. Invest. Dermatol. 63: 19–26.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. Ceriani, R. L., K. Thompson, J. A. Peterson, and S. Abraham. 1977. Surface differentiation antigens of human mammary epithelial cells carried on the human milk fat globule. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 74: 582–586.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  20. Peterson, J. A., G. C. Buehring, J. Taylor-Papadamitirou, and R. L. Ceriani. 1978. Expression of human mammary epithelial (HME) antigens in primary cultures of normal and abnormal breast tissue. Int. J. Cancer 22: 655–661.

    Article  PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  21. Lasfargues, E. Y. 1975. New approaches to the cultivation of human breast carcinomas. In: J. Fogh (Ed.),Human Tumor Cells in Vitro. Plenum Press. New York, pp. 51–77.

    Google Scholar 

  22. Armstrong, R. C., and W. Rosenau. 1978. Cocultivation of human primary breast carcinomas and embryonic mesenchyme resulting in growth and maintenance of tumor cells. Cancer Res. 38: 894–898.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  23. Allegra, J. C., and M. E. Lippman. 1978. Growth of a human breast cancer cell line in serum-free hormone-supplemented medium. Cancer Res. 38: 3823–3829.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  24. Das, N. K., H. L. Hosick, and S. Nandi. 1974. Influence of seeding density on multicellular organization and nuclear events in cultures of normal and neoplastic mouse mammary epithelium. J. Natl. Cancer Inst. 52: 849–861.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  25. Richards, J., and S. Nandi. 1978. Primary culture of rat mammary epithelial cells. I. Effect of plating density, hormones, and serum on DNA synthesis. J. Natl. Cancer Inst. 61: 765–771.

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Additional information

This research was supported by Grant PDT-72 from the American Cancer Society and Grant CP-70510 from the National Institutes of Health.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Stampfer, M., Hallowes, R.C. & Hackett, A.J. Growth of normal human mammary cells in culture. In Vitro 16, 415–425 (1980).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:

Key words