The Harvard Gazette reports that researchers in Australia have now successfully grown a complete, functioning breast from a single stem cell. Though the experiment, set up by Kaylene Simpson, a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School, was performed on a mouse, experts are confident that the study's findings can also be applied to humans.
"Until now, no one has been able to take one cell and make it do everything involved in a fully-functioning, milk-producing breast," Simpson tells the Gazette. "There were lots of technical obstacles to overcome and it was very difficult to attract funding at first." Indeed, the breast project took five years to complete. But once similar human breast stem cells can be isolated, scientists are determined to try to grow a human breast in a laboratory. If successful, those findings could lead to profound advances in treatments for early stage breast cancer and in reconstructive and cosmetic surgery.