These colourful cells are human mammary epithelial cells. They’re normally found lining the network of tree-like milk ducts inside female breasts, but here they’ve been grown in a plastic dish. Because they grow so well in the lab, mammary epithelial cells are a useful way of studying many aspects of breast cell growth and behaviour, especially the development of breast cancer – one of the most common types of cancer in the world. Not only can scientists tweak the genes and molecules within the cells to see how they respond, revealing key drivers behind the process of tumour growth, but they can also use them to test potential new drugs to treat the disease. One area of research focuses on certain molecules involved in sticking cells together, stained here with red and green dyes. These interactions are faulty in tumours, so understanding and targeting them could lead to important future therapies.
Written by Kat Arney
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.