Mammary gland cells grown from dental epithelial stem cells
A mouse’s front teeth grow continuously, producing new enamel to compensate for erosion from gnawing on hard surfaces. The dental epithelial stem cells (DESCs) underpinning this growth give rise to multiple dental cell types, but have recently been shown to be even more flexible. Scientists tested their ability to produce different cells, in mice, by transplanting DESCs into areas where mammary glands should develop. When translocated alongside some mammary epithelial cells, the DESCs gave rise to all cell types, including milk-producing alveolar cells, required in a mammary gland (pictured, with DESCs in green, casein, a protein found in milk, in red, and cell nuclei in blue). DESCs can even yield rudimentary mammary gland structures when transplanted alone, without any mammary epithelial cells, a feat so far unique to these stem cells. Besides potentially inspiring new methods of breast reconstruction, such extreme flexibility could eventually have broader applications for regenerative medicine.
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