Researchers Grow Human Mammary Glands In Mice!
Scientists from BC Cancer Agency introduced human breast tissue into genetically engineered mice from which healthy mammary glands or milk-producing glands developed.
Breast cancer stem cells are believed to be responsible for the tumors in breasts.
This breakthrough in breast cancer research paves the way for the development of drugs aimed at the cancerous cells, as the researchers can understand the step-by-step growth and differentiation of the stem cells in the breast.
In this study, which took 5 years for completion, discarded breast tissue was collected from patients of the plastic surgeons who underwent breast-reduction surgery. After mincing the tissue with scalpel, the growth medium (for tissue) was treated with several compounds before suspending it in the collagen gel pellets.
This tissue was then introduced into mice models whose immune system was knocked-out to prevent graft rejection.
After 5 weeks, the cells were extracted from the mice and the gel pellets analyzed for the presence of newly generated breast tissue.
The breast tissue that was transplanted multiplied and functional mammary glands developed by absorbing nutrients from the blood stream.
Moreover, it was observed that the newly differentiated mammary gland cells organized themselves into a three dimensional structure similar to the one found in human breasts that are capable of growing and maturing physiologically.
According to Dr. Connie Eaves, one of the researchers of this study, origination of breast cancer occurs in the mammary glands. So, by growing them in mice models, researchers can study the stem cell activity and develop treatments accordingly.
Conventional cancer drugs target the dividing cells and kill them. In this process healthy cell division required for the body may also be affected.
Through this research, the controlling factor of normal cell division of a healthy stem cell and the factor that controls the division of a tumor stem cell can be known.