A team of researchers has discovered that breast stem cells and their ‘daughters’ have a much longer lifespan than previously thought, and are active in puberty and throughout life.
The longevity of breast stem cells and their daughters means that they could harbour genetic defects or damage that progress to cancer decades later, potentially shifting back the timeline of breast cancer development.
The finding by the researchers from Melbourne’s Walter and Eliza Hall Institute is also integral to identifying the ‘cells of origin’ of breast cancer and the ongoing quest to develop new treatments and diagnostics for breast cancer.
In a project led by Dr Anne Rios and Dr Nai Yang Fu that tracked normal breast stem cells and their development the team has discovered that breast stem cells actively maintain breast tissue for most of the life of the individual and contribute to all major stages of breast development.
Professor Lindeman said discovering the long lifespan and programming of breast stem cells would have implications for identifying the cells of origin of breast cancers.
The study was published today in the journal Nature.