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1.  Quantitative Assessment of Mammary Gland Density in Rodents Using Digital Image Analysis 
Background
Rodent models have been used extensively to study mammary gland development and for studies of toxicology and carcinogenesis. Mammary gland gross morphology can visualized via the excision of intact mammary gland chains following fixation and staining with carmine using a tissue preparation referred to as a whole mount. Methods are described for the automated collection of digital images from an entire mammary gland whole mount and for the interrogation of digital data using a "masking" technique available with Image-Pro® plus image analysis software (Mediacybernetics. Silver Spring, MD).
Results
Parallel to mammographic analysis in humans, measurements of rodent mammary gland density were derived from area-based or volume-based algorithms and included: total circumscribed mammary fat pad mass, mammary epithelial mass, and epithelium-free fat pad mass. These values permitted estimation of absolute mass of mammary epithelium as well as breast density. The biological plausibility of these measurements was evaluated in mammary whole mounts from rats and mice. During mammary gland development, absolute epithelial mass increased linearly without significant changes in mammographic density. Treatment of rodents with tamoxifen, 9-cis-retinoic acid, or ovariectomy, and occurrence of diet induced obesity decreased both absolute epithelial mass and mammographic density. The area and volumetric methods gave similar results.
Conclusions
Digital image analysis can be used for screening agents for potential impact on reproductive toxicity or carcinogenesis as well as for mechanistic studies, particularly for cumulative effects on mammary epithelial mass as well as translational studies of mechanisms that explain the relationship between epithelial mass and cancer risk.
doi:10.1186/1480-9222-13-4
PMCID: PMC3129309  PMID: 21663682
2.  A Method for Serial Tissue Processing and Parallel Analysis of Aberrant Crypt Morphology, Mucin Depletion, and Beta-Catenin Staining in an Experimental Model of Colon Carcinogenesis 
Biological Procedures Online  2010;12:118-130.
The use of architectural and morphological characteristics of cells for establishing prognostic indicators by which individual pathologies are assigned grade and stage is a well-accepted practice. Advances in automated micro- and macroscopic image acquisition and digital image analysis have created new opportunities in the field of prognostic assessment; but, one area in experimental pathology, animal models for colon cancer, has not taken advantage of these opportunities. This situation is primarily due to the methods available to evaluate the colon of the rodent for the presence of premalignant and malignant pathologies. We report a new method for the excision and processing of the entire colon of the rat and illustrate how this procedure permitted the quantitative assessment of aberrant crypt foci (ACF), a premalignant colon pathology, for characteristics consistent with progression to malignancy. ACF were detected by methylene blue staining and subjected to quantitative morphometric analysis. Colons were then restained with high iron diamine–alcian blue for assessment of mucin depletion using an image overlay to associate morphometric data with mucin depletion. The subsequent evaluation of ACF for beta-catenin staining is also demonstrated. The methods described are particularly relevant to the screening of compounds for cancer chemopreventive activity.
doi:10.1007/s12575-010-9032-x
PMCID: PMC3284111  PMID: 21406072
colon carcinogenesis; aberrant crypt foci; mucin depletion; beta-catenin; image analysis; morphometry
3.  Collection of Epithelial Cells from Rodent Mammary Gland Via Laser Capture Microdissection Yielding High-Quality RNA Suitable for Microarray Analysis 
Laser capture microdissection (LCM) enables collection of cell populations highly enriched for specific cell types that have the potential of yielding critical information about physiological and pathophysiological processes. One use of cells collected by LCM is for gene expression profiling. Samples intended for transcript analyses should be of the highest quality possible. RNA degradation is an ever-present concern in molecular biological assays, and LCM is no exception. This paper identifies issues related to preparation, collection, and processing in a lipid-rich tissue, rodent mammary gland, in which the epithelial to stromal cell ratio is low and the stromal component is primarily adipocytes, a situation that presents numerous technical challenges for high-quality RNA isolation. Our goal was to improve the procedure so that a greater probe set present call rate would be obtained when isolated RNA was evaluated using Affymetrix microarrays. The results showed that the quality of RNA isolated from epithelial cells of both mammary gland and mammary adenocarcinomas was high with a probe set present call rate of 65% and a high signal-to-noise ratio.
doi:10.1007/s12575-010-9026-8
PMCID: PMC3055717  PMID: 21406068
Laser capture microdissection; Mammary epithelial cells; RNA quality

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