Scientists have isolated stem cells from the breasts of healthy women and used them to regenerate breast tissue, according to the journal Development. Dr. Christina Scheel led the study, which will hopefully have major implications in the fight against breast cancer.
“This model will allow us to better study normal breast development, and then to understand the first steps that predispose women to developing tumors,” Scheel told Time.
Only one in about 2,000 of these cells are stem cells, but by mixing up a more nurturing culture solution, they were able to increase the growth of these cells by five-fold, and before their eyes the cells began to form the branchlike structures that serve as the duct network of the breast. With other adjustments, Scheel was also able to promote the growth of the cluster-like cells that produce milk. By labeling the initial stem cell, they saw that all of the complex structures in the breast remarkably arose from a single cell, guided by the right developmental instructions.
Time went on to say that the study may already be improving our understanding of breast cancer. Scheel’s team discovered that stem cells on a “rigid” framework “grew more aggressively and acted more tumor-like compared to when they were grown on a more flexible, softer framework.” This may help explain why women with “dense breasts” are more likely to suffer from the disease.
Jason Mathews is Internetting way too hard. Follow him at @jasonmathews316.