Scientists explore a way to regenerate breasts in breast cancer survivors
Breast cancer is the most commonly occurring cancer in women globally. It is one of the five most fatal cancers in the world. Most breast cancers start by invading either the milk ducts or the milk-producing glands (lobules).
The breast cancer can be 'in-situ' where it only affects the milk ducts and does not spread to the underlying tissues; this is medically called ductal carcinoma in situ. However, breast cancer can also be invasive, which means it spreads all over the breast tissues and is medically called invasive breast cancer.
If diagnosed early, breast cancer can be treated with the help of surgery and chemotherapy. The surgery of breast cancer either involves removal of only the affected part of the breast (lumpectomy) or total removal of the breast (mastectomy). This is mostly followed by sessions of chemotherapy.
As of now, once the cancerous breast is removed, the woman could not breastfeed her child from that breast. But this may not be the case anymore.
A study, published in 2019 in a journal Cells, stated that mammary glands can be regenerated with the help of dental stem cells. Dr Thimios Mitsiadis, professor at the Institute of Oral Biology of the University of Zurich, and his team of researchers experimented by removing epithelial stem cells from the growing incisors (the front teeth) of young mice and used it for the creation of mammary glands (milk-producing glands) in female mice.
Initial experiment: Regeneration of the mammary glands
Dental epithelial stem cells are the set of cells which can convert or grow all types of dental cells. But the scientists believed that the dental stem cells can also help in the growth of non-dental cells.
To prove their point, the scientists used a set of mice for an experiment and removed all their mammary (milk-producing) cells.
The mammary fat pad of the mice was then injected with dental stem cells and mammary epithelial cells. The mammary fat pad is a collection of fat tissues which can modify hormonal action and also promote the growth of new cells.
The scientists were amazed to see the results of the experiment as it showed that dental stem cells were not only able to regrow the mammary gland but also some milk-producing cells.
Confirmed results: Growth of new breast tissues
To confirm the ability of the dental stem cells, the scientists ran the experiment again but this time they injected the mice only with the dental stem cells.
The results confirmed that the dental stem cells were able to grow small mammary ducts with some undeveloped branches.
Hope for the future
Stem cell regeneration can change many lives. Dr Thimios Mitsiadis believe that after this discovery, the scientists would be able to regenerate the breasts of mastectomy patients with the help of dental stem cells.
For more information, read our article on Breast Cancer.
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Updated Date: Feb 20, 2020 19:41:12 IST
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