These live cells give the opportunity to analyze not only changes that occur in breast tissues during breastfeeding, but also information on possible early indicator of future development of the disease, the authors stressed.
The study was led by researchers from the Wellcome-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute (CSCI) and the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Cambridge, who argued that breast tissue is dynamic, changing over time during puberty, pregnancy, breastfeeding, and aging.
This research, led by Dr. Alecia-Jane Twigger of CSCI, found that the cells in milk, once thought to be dead or dying, are in fact very much alive.
“I believe that by studying human milk cells, we will be able to answer some of the most fundamental questions around mammary gland function such as: how is milk produced? Why do some women struggle to make milk? And what strategies can be employed to improve breastfeeding outcomes for women?” said Dr. Alecia-Jane.
The researchers collected voluntary breast milk samples from lactating women, as well as samples of non-lactating breast tissue donated from women who elected to have aesthetic breast reduction surgery.
Using single-cell RNA sequencing analysis, the team conducted a novel comparison of the composition of the mammary cells taken using these two methods, identifying the distinctions between lactating and non-lactating human mammary glands.