Reconstruction of human mammary tissues in a mouse model

Nat Protoc. 2006;1(1):206-14. doi: 10.1038/nprot.2006.31.


Establishing a model system that more accurately recapitulates both normal and neoplastic breast epithelial development in rodents is central to studying human breast carcinogenesis. However, the inability of human breast epithelial cells to colonize mouse mammary fat pads is problematic. Considering that the human breast is a more fibrous tissue than is the adipose-rich stroma of the murine mammary gland, our group sought to bypass the effects of the rodent microenvironment through incorporation of human stromal fibroblasts. We have been successful in reproducibly recreating functionally normal breast tissues from reduction mammoplasty tissues, in what we term the human-in-mouse (HIM) model. Here we describe our relatively simple and inexpensive techniques for generating this orthotopic xenograft model. Whether the model is to be applied for understanding normal human breast development or tumorigenesis, investigators with minimal animal surgery skills, basic cell culture techniques and access to human breast tissue will be able to generate humanized mouse glands within 3 months. Clearing the mouse of its endogenous epithelium with subsequent stromal humanization takes 1 month. The subsequent implantation of co-mixed human epithelial cells and stromal cells occurs 2 weeks after humanization, so investigators should expect to observe the desired outgrowths 2 months afterward. As a whole, this model system has the potential to improve the understanding of crosstalk between tissue stroma and the epithelium as well as factors involved in breast stem cell biology tumor initiation and progression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Immunocompromised Host
  • Mammary Glands, Human / cytology
  • Mammary Glands, Human / transplantation*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • Models, Animal*
  • Stromal Cells / transplantation
  • Transplantation, Heterologous / methods*