Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Stem Cells, Cellular Therapy & Biobanking
Scientific Community
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article

New Type of Pluripotent Cell Discovered In Adult Breast Tissue

Published: Tuesday, March 05, 2013
Last Updated: Tuesday, March 05, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Human body carries personalized “patch kit," Say UCSF scientists.

UC San Francisco researchers have found that certain rare cells extracted from adult breast tissue can be instructed to become different types of cells – a discovery that could have important potential for regenerative medicine.

As with human embryonic stem cells, the newly found cells are pluripotent, or capable of turning into most cell types, the authors said. The scientists discovered that when the cells were put either in mice, or in cell culture, the cells could differentiate to produce multiple cell types, including those that proceed to make heart, intestine, brain, pancreas and even cartilage.
The finding is significant, the authors said, because scientists previously believed that pluripotent cells did not exist in the body after the embryonic stage of human development.

While a therapeutic use of the cells has yet to be determined, they could potentially generate new tissue – a “patch kit" – to heal wounds or reconstruct damaged or missing organs. They also could be used as a resource to study how cells become pluripotent, and how they repair and replace themselves.

“The ability of cells from an adult body to make so many tissue derivatives was completely unexpected,” said senior author Thea D. Tlsty, PhD, a UCSF professor of pathology. “When we saw that they could make cartilage, bone, gut, brain, pancreas cells – and even beating heart tissue – we were excited and intrigued.”

The study was published on Monday, March 4, in the online Early Edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

UCSF has pioneered research on regenerative medicine in a broad array of animal and human cell studies. Last year, Shinya Yamanaka, MD, PhD, a senior investigator at the UCSF-affiliated Gladstone Institutes and a UCSF professor of anatomy, won the Nobel Prize in Medicine for his discovery of a way to reprogram ordinary human skin cells into stem cells that can be used to better understand and treat a number of human diseases. Other projects at UCSF include work by Allan Basbaum, PhD, to modify stem cells to treat pain and rebuild damaged nervous systems.

Unique Characteristics of Newly Discovered Cells

Though the newly discovered cells share some characteristics of embryonic stem cells, they appear to be unique to themselves, said Tlsty. They are mortal and genetically stable – characteristics that are barriers to subsequent cancer formation, which is a factor that could prove valuable if the cells are to be used for regenerative medicine, she explained. By contrast, human embryonic stem cells as well as engineered induced pluripotent stem cells, also known as iPS cells, are immortal and genetically unstable.

Additionally, the cells can expand to an extensive yet finite number before they stop growing. One cell can grow for almost 60 population doublings, producing in excess of one billion daughter cells, conceptually providing enough cells to help in the recovery of damaged or diseased tissue.
The scientists are currently searching for the rare cells in other organs of the body. They hypothesize that these “universal patch kits” are scattered throughout the body of adult men and women.

The special cells were discovered and isolated in healthy breast tissue from women of various ages and ethnicities who were undergoing breast reductions. All tissues used in the study were devoid of visible disease or contamination, the authors say.

The breast tissue in the study was separated into single cells, and specific markers were used to pull out the rare population of cells.

From Breast Tissue to Beating Heart Cells

Even a single one of these endogenous pluripotent somatic (ePS) cells, when placed in the appropriate conditions, exhibited the same pluripotent power to self-renew and to generate multiple lineages – both in vitro and in vivo – as embryonic stem cells. The cells could develop into any of the three germ layers: endoderm (such as the pancreas and gastrointestinal tract), the mesoderm (bone, heart muscle, blood vessel), or ectoderm (breast tissues and nervous system).

For example, when properly instructed, some ePS cells made human breast tissue that produced milk in transplanted mice, while other cells generated cartilage structures. To the surprise of the researchers, when the cells were differentiated into heart muscle, they even demonstrated the spontaneous beating seen in cardiomyocytes, or “beating heart” cells.

“The cells we describe here exist in the body devoid of commitment,” the authors wrote. “Taken together, these studies provide morphological, molecular and functional evidence of lineage plasticity of these cells. They will make human milk, bone, fat – they will beat like a heart.”

Only a small fraction of certain mammary cells have “this complete and sustained” unique profile capable of morphing themselves, the researchers said.

“Future research will tell us if we lose access to these cells as we age, if they are found in all tissues, and if they can be used to rescue diseased tissues,” said Tlsty.

“The observation that rare cells within an adult human body have the capacity to differentiate into many tissue types under different physiological cues will facilitate a fascinating area of research into the physiology and therapeutic potential of these cells,” said lead author Somdutta Roy, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow at the UCSF Department of Pathology and the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Further Information
Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 2,600+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 3,800+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters

Sign In

Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

A Patient’s Budding Cortex — In A Dish?
Networking neurons thrive in 3-D human “organoid”
Friday, May 29, 2015
Drugs that Activate Brain Stem Cells May Reverse Multiple Sclerosis
NIH-funded study identifies over-the-counter compounds that may replace damaged cells.
Tuesday, April 21, 2015
Stem Cell Transplants May Halt Progression of Multiple Sclerosis
NIH-funded study yields encouraging early results.
Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Scientists Sniff Out Unexpected Role for Stem Cells in the Brain
NIH scientists find that restocking new cells in the brain’s center for smell maintains crucial circuitry.
Saturday, October 11, 2014
Suspect Gene Corrupts Neural Connections
“Diseases of synapses” demo’d in a dish - NIH-funded study.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Early Treatment Benefits Infants with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency
NIH-funded study identifies factors contributing to successful stem cell transplants.
Friday, August 01, 2014
Stem Cells Form Light-Sensitive 3-D Retinal Tissue
Researchers induced human stem cells to create a 3-D retina structure that responds to light. The finding may aid the study of eye diseases and could eventually lead to new therapies.
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Stem Cell Therapy Rebuilds Heart Muscle in Primates
Human embryonic stem cells used to regenerate damaged primate hearts.
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Too Much Protein May Kill Brain Cells As Parkinson’s Progresses
NIH-funded study on key Parkinson’s gene finds a possible new target for monitoring the disease.
Friday, April 11, 2014
NeuroBioBank Gives Researchers One-Stop Access to Post-Mortem Brains
The NIH is shifting from a limited funding role to coordinating a Web-based resource for sharing post-mortem brain tissue, a move which is expected to expedite research on brain disorders.
Tuesday, December 03, 2013
Gene-Silencing Study Finds New Targets for Parkinson’s Disease
NIH study sheds light on treatment of related disorders.
Monday, November 25, 2013
Epigenetic Clock Marks Age of Human Tissues and Cells
The age of many human tissues and cells is reflected in chemical changes to DNA. The finding provides insights for cancer, aging, and stem cell research.
Tuesday, November 05, 2013
NIH Scientists Pursue New Therapies to Improve Rare Disease Drug Development
Projects selected for potential to treat specific rare diseases.
Friday, September 13, 2013
Stem Cells Discovered in Deadly Parasitic Flatworms
The study was described in Nature on February 28, 2013.
Friday, March 15, 2013
NIH Study Suggests Gene Variation May Shape Bladder Cancer Treatment
Study appeared in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.
Thursday, January 03, 2013
Scientific News
Snapshot Turns T Cell Immunology on its Head
New research may have implications for 1 diabetes sufferers.
Developing a Gel that Mimics Human Breast for Cancer Research
Scientists at the Universities of Manchester and Nottingham have been funded to develop a gel that will match many of the biological structures of human breast tissue, to advance cancer research and reduce animal testing.
Lung Repair and Regeneration Gene Discovered
New role for hedgehog gene offers better understanding of lung disease.
Restoring Vision with Stem Cells
Age-related macular degeneration (AMRD) could be treated by transplanting photoreceptors produced by the directed differentiation of stem cells, thanks to findings published today by Professor Gilbert Bernier of the University of Montreal and its affiliated Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital.
The Age of Humans Controlling Microbes
Engineered bacteria could soon be used to detect environmental toxins, treat diseases, and sustainably produce chemicals and fuels.
Gene Expression: A Snapshot of Stem Cell Development
New genes found that regulate development of stem cells.
Tissue-Engineered Colon from Human Cells
A study by scientists at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles has shown that tissue-engineered colon derived from human cells is able to develop the many specialized nerves required for function, mimicking the neuronal population found in native colon.
Tension Helps Heart Cells Develop Normally in the Lab
Stanford engineers have uncovered the important role tension plays in growing heart cells out of the body.
Urine Excretion From Stem Cell-Derived Kidneys
Researchers report a strategy for enabling urine excretion from kidneys grown from stem cells.
Stem Cell Research Hints at Evolution of Human Brain
Researchers at UC San Francisco have succeeded in mapping the genetic signature of a unique group of stem cells in the human brain that seem to generate most of the neurons in our massive cerebral cortex.
Skyscraper Banner

Skyscraper Banner
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
2,600+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
3,800+ scientific videos