Welcome to our webpage. We are the Mammary Apoptosis and Development Group, or M.A.D group for short. Our lab is currently located in the Department of Pathology within the University of Cambridge. We have 8 group members at present headed by Dr Christine Watson.
The mammary gland is a fascinating organ. Most organs in the human body are fully developed before birth. The mammary gland is different. At birth there is a small rudimentary structure present in a large fat pad. It remains this way until the onset of puberty when hormones released cause the gland to grow further into the fat pad filling it with a branched structure. A period of quiescence occurs again until pregnancy.
With the onset of pregnancy further hormonal stimulation causes more development covering the branched structure with alveoli. At the time of birth the cells which make up these alveoli are stimulated to produce and secrete milk proteins into lumen of the alveolus. When the infant suckles the milk is squeezed from these alveoli into the ductal system to the nipple where the infant can feed.
After weaning the vast glandular structure is no longer required and so much of it dies back until it resembles the branched structure present before pregnancy. If pregnancy occurs again the whole process can be repeated
It is this that makes the mammary gland such an amazing organ to study. This development after birth and this ability to cycle time after time after time is unique to the mammary gland.
Our group in involved with researching how the mammary gland functions at all levels. We have recently been involved with searching for the mammary gland stem cells which are thought to be responsible for the growth of the gland during pregnancy. We are also involved with elucidating how the gland regresses after weaning; which cells die, why and how are all key questions. The more we understand about how the mammary gland functions normally the closer we come to understanding how it can go wrong, resulting in breast cancer. Academic research provides the clues that companies all over the world use the manufacture and invent new cancer treating drugs.
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