23 April, Sydney
Breastfeeding is essential for enabling newborns grow and develop well. A team of Australian researchers have discovered the secret behind this: breast cells develop two nuclei as the breast switches to lactation and nurtures the newborn.
According to researchers, this change begins to occur in late pregnancy with the generation of a vast number of cells with two nuclei.
These cells are milk-producing factories and the two nuclei disappear at the cessation of lactation, when breast cells return to a single nucleus state.
“This process — which lasts only for the duration of lactation — was important for the newborn to thrive when breast milk was the sole nutrient,” said lead study author Jane Visvader from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute.
“What is interesting to find is they change according to a very tightly regulated regime — they develop two nuclei, not three of four and then return to one nucleus after lactation. Presumably this is important to avoid mishaps,” Visvader added in the paper, published in the journal Nature Communications.
Using unique 3-D imaging technology, scientists found huge numbers of cells became binucleated — developed a second nucleus — a process that is critical to milk production.
Our research showed how mammals, including humans, wallabies and seals, were primed to adapt to pregnancy in ways that best supported the survival of their babies, said co-author Geoff Lindeman.
“Based on their presence in five different species, these findings suggest that this process has evolved in mammals as a mechanism to maximise milk production, which is essential for nourishing the newborn and the survival of mammalian species,” Lindeman added.