by Steven Ertelt
January 5, 2006
Vancouver, Canada (LifeNews.com) — Scientists have isolated stem cells form the breast tissue of mice that can regenerate an entire milk-producing mammary gland. The discovery is a landmark achievement for adult stem cell research because its the first time adult stem cells have been purified from an adult tissue other than bone marrow or blood.
If the research can be duplicated on humans, the discovery could enhance the usefulness of adult stem cells continuing to make them superior to embryonic stem cells, which have yet to cure a single patient.
Connie Eaves, deputy director of the Terry Fox Laboratory at the British Columbia Cancer Agency, told the Canadian Press that the findings demonstrate the stem cells can regenerate tissues and backs the notion that many cancers likely develop because of stem cells going awry.
"Our results are very exciting," Eaves said. Though scientists believed such stem cells existed in breast tissue, "these cells had never been isolated as a separate population."
Scientists took the breast tissue stem cells from virgin adult female mice and isolated them in a purification process. They injected the cells into young female mice who had just been weaned and had the fatty areas that would develop into breasts removed.
Three weeks later the mice were bred and scientists found the entire mammary structure had regenerated.
Eaves told the Canadian Press that the Canadian and Australian researchers worked independently and both were able to isolate "a very, very tiny population (of stem cells) with a high degree of purity."
Eaves’ team concentrated on isolating the stem cells but the Australian team extended their studies to examine mice who were genetically predisposed to contracting breast cancer. They found isolated stem cells to be more numerous in pre-cancer tissues.
Dr. Michael Rudnicki, head of the Stem Cell Network of Canada, told the Canadian Press that this is an important finding because it confirms the suspicion that "cancer is a disease of stem cells."
"And secondly, these investigators have developed a methodology whereby a single stem cell can reconstitute the . . . network of an entire breast gland," he said. "This has existed for no other organ except bone marrow, so this is the first time that it’s been applied to another organ system and been done so successfully."
The teams published papers on their findings in the latest issue of Nature.