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. © 2011 McGinley and Thompson; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
McGinley, J. N., & Thompson, H. J. (2011). Quantitative assessment of mammary gland density in rodents using digital image analysis. Biological Procedures Online, 13(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/1480-9222-13-4