Stampfer, M

Garbe, J

Bassett, E

Varghese, S
Rajapakse, R


The long-term objective of my program has been to develop and characterize a human mammary epithelial cell (HMEC) system for use in a wide variety of studies on human cell biology and carcinogenesis. The goal of our laboratory has been to understand the normal growth control processes in HMEC, and to determine how these processes may be altered as a result of immortal and malignant transformation.


To address this goal, our work since 1976 has provided a well-characterized HMEC culture system that has:

a) long-term active growth of finite lifespan HMEC;

b) extended life cultures and immortally transformed lines derived from normal HMEC exposed to chemical carcinogens, oncogenes, p53 inactivation and/or hTERT;

c) malignant transformants of the cell lines following exposure to specific oncogenes.

Detailed information on the derivation, characterization, and methods for growth of these cells, as well as information on how other labs may obtain these cells, can be found on our web site:

This work has been guided by the desire to facilitate widespread use of human epithelial cells for molecular and cellular biology studies. Therefore, the HMEC system is relatively easy to use, can provide large quantities of uniform cell populations, and is relatively well defined. However, trying to balance the goal of making the system as amenable as possible to widespread use, with the goal of trying to optimize the system to reflect in vivo biology, has thus far resulted in considerably less than ideal conditions for approximation of in vivo biology.

Our laboratory’s long-term emphasis on extensive development and characterization of one human epithelial cell type has enabled us to gain a unique overview of human cellular growth, aging, and transformation. Our studies have now enabled us to produce a new model of the barriers and alterations encountered by cultured normal finite lifespan HMEC as they grow, senesce, overcome senescence barriers, and gain immortality.

A summary of our most recent work can be found at our web site:

Martha Stampfer
Senior Staff Scientist/
Life Sciences Division

One Cyclotron Rd.
Mailstop: 73
Berkeley, CA 94720
tel: (510)486-7273; 486-6390
fax: (510)486-4475



Stampfer Laboratory Information