Journal of Biosciences

, Volume 37, Issue 2, pp 349–358 | Cite as

Mammary gland stem cells: More puzzles than explanations



Mammary gland stem cells (MaSC) have not been identified in spite of extensive research spanning over several decades. This has been primarily due to the complexity of mammary gland structure and its development, cell heterogeneity in the mammary gland and the insufficient knowledge about MaSC markers. At present, LinCD29hiCD49fhiCD24+/modSca-1 cells of the mammary gland have been reported to be enriched with MaSCs. We suggest that the inclusion of stem cell markers like Oct4, Sox2, Nanog and the mammary gland differentiation marker BRCA-1 may further narrow down the search for MaSCs. In addition, we have discussed some of the other unresolved puzzles on the mammary gland stem cells, such as their similarities and/or differences with mammary cancer stem cells, use of milk as source of mammary stem cells and the possibility of in vitro differentiation of embryonic stem (ES) cells into functional mammary gland structures in this review. Nevertheless, it is the lack of identity for a MaSC that is curtailing the advances in some of the above and other related areas.


Epithelial cells mammary gland markers mouse parity stem 





embryoid bodies


estrogen receptor

ES cells

embryonic stem cells


label retaining cells


mammarygland stem cells


parity induced mammary epithelial stem cells


stem cell antigen ­1


small light cells


terminal end buds


undifferentiated large light cells



We thank Dr Julie Sharp for her constructive criticism to this review.


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Copyright information

© Indian Academy of Sciences 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CSIR - Centre for Cellular and Molecular BiologyHyderabadIndia

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