Insight into changes in breast cells during lactation – clues for understanding breastfeeding problems and cancer
Breastfeeding – the most natural thing in the world? Yet, some women struggle to produce enough milk. Why though is something we know little about. In the search for new options for these women, we need to understand how the breast changes during pregnancy in preparation for lactation. Researchers compared cells from non-lactating mammary glands (left) with those found in milk samples from breastfeeding women (right; images show cells grown in 3D culture). The milk-producing cells had similarities to luminal progenitor cells from the non-lactating women – cells that can reproduce rapidly to give rise to more cells, and potentially milk cells. Luminal progenitor cells are also thought to be the origin of many aggressive breast cancers. By studying how these progenitor cells create milk-producing cells during lactation, not only could we find ways to help women with low milk supply, but also work out what goes wrong in cancers.
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