Mammary gland-derived nestin-positive cell populations can be isolated from human male and female donors

Anja Richter, Nicole Nissen, Peter Mailänder, Felix Stang, Frank Siemers, Charli Kruse, Sandra Danner*

*Corresponding author for this work
3 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction. Nestin-expressing cells isolated from different human tissues reveal self-renewal capacity and a multilineage differentiation potential. In particular, adult stem/progenitor cell populations from exocrine glands such as the pancreas, salivary gland and sweat gland are characterized by prominent nestin expression. Interestingly, human mammary gland histological examinations also demonstrated the existence of nestin-positive cells in the ductal compartments. Within the scope of our previous work we wonder whether an isolation of nestin-positive cell populations from human mammary gland biopsies is possible and what characteristics they have in vitro. Cell populations from both sexes were propagated and subjected to a comparison with other gland-derived cell populations. Methods. Human mammary tissue biopsies were mechanically and enzymatically treated, and the isolated acini structures were observed with time-lapse microscopy to track adherently outgrowing cells. The proliferation potential of the cell population was assessed by performing growth curves. On the gene and protein levels we investigated the expression of stem cell markers as well as markers indicating multilineage differentiation. Results: We succeeded in establishing proliferating cell populations from breast tissue biopsies of both sexes. Our results display several similarities to the glandular stem cell populations from other exocrine glands. Beside their proliferation capacity during in vitro culture, the obtained cell populations are characterized by their prominent nestin expression. The cells share surface proteins commonly expressed on adult stem cells. We demonstrated the expression of stem cell-related genes like Oct4, Sox2, KLF4 and Nanog, and confirmed multipotent differentiation capacity by detecting transcripts expressed in endodermal, mesodermal and ectodermal cell types. Conclusion: With this study we present an efficient procedure for isolation and propagation of nestin-positive stem cells obtained from male and female breast tissue, which is frequently available. The established multipotent cell populations could be easily expanded in vitro and thus hold promise for cell-based therapies and personalized medicine.

Original languageEnglish
Article number78
JournalStem Cell Research and Therapy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 11.07.2013


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