Document Type


Publication Date




Publication Title

Breast Cancer Research




122 (13 pages)


Background: Standard three-dimensional (3D) in vitro culture techniques, such as those used for mammary epithelial cells, rely on random distribution of cells within hydrogels. Although these systems offer advantages over traditional 2D models, limitations persist owing to the lack of control over cellular placement within the hydrogel. This results in experimental inconsistencies and random organoid morphology. Robust, high-throughput experimentation requires greater standardization of 3D epithelial culture techniques.

Methods: Here, we detail the use of a 3D bioprinting platform as an investigative tool to control the 3D formation of organoids through the "self-assembly" of human mammary epithelial cells. Experimental bioprinting procedures were optimized to enable the formation of controlled arrays of individual mammary organoids. We define the distance and cell number parameters necessary to print individual organoids that do not interact between print locations as well as those required to generate large contiguous organoids connected through multiple print locations.

Results: We demonstrate that as few as 10 cells can be used to form 3D mammary structures in a single print and that prints up to 500 mu m apart can fuse to form single large structures. Using these fusion parameters, we demonstrate that both linear and non-linear (contiguous circles) can be generated with sizes of 3 mm in length/diameter. We confirm that cells from individual prints interact to form structures with a contiguous lumen. Finally, we demonstrate that organoids can be printed into human collagen hydrogels, allowing for all-human 3D culture systems.

Conclusions: Our platform is adaptable to different culturing protocols and is superior to traditional random 3D culture techniques in efficiency, reproducibility, and scalability. Importantly, owing to the low-cost accessibility and computer numerical control-driven platform of our 3D bioprinter, we have the ability to disseminate our experiments with absolute precision to interested laboratories.


© The Author(s). 2018

Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License,which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

Correction to this article is attached as an additional file.

Reid, J. A., Mollica, P. A., Bruno, R. D., & Sachs, P. C. (2018). Consistent and reproducible cultures of large-scale 3d mammary epithelial structures using an accessible bioprinting platform (vol 20, 122, 2018). Breast Cancer Research, 20. doi:10.1186/s13058-018-1069-9


0000-0003-2989-1292 (Reid), 0000-0002-0621-2819 (Mollica), 0000-0003-3329-9478 (Bruno), 0000-0002-0871-6789 (Sachs)

Original Publication Citation

Reid, J. A., Mollica, P. M., Bruno, R. D., & Sachs, P. C. (2018). Consistent and reproducible cultures of large-scale 3D mammary epithelial structures using an accessible bioprinting platform. Breast Cancer Research, 20, 122. doi:10.1186/s13058-018-1045-4