Researchers at UC San Francisco were working to understand more about breast cancer when they made an unexpected discovery.
They found special cells from breast tissue that have the ability to change, much like embryonic stem cells.
"They can turn into breast tissue, nerve tissue, beating heart cells, even a pancreas,” said Thea Tlsty, Ph.D Professor of Pathology at UCSF Medical Center.
Up until now most researchers believed only embryonic cells had the ability to change, they didn’t think adults cells had that potential.
In the lab, scientists were able to change those special breast tissue cells into beating heart cells.
"Conceptually this could be used for neuro-degenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, MS, Alzheimer’s and for repairing damaged cardiac tissues “ said Tlsty.
The special cells could potentially be used to produce islet cells that can generate insulin to help people with diabetes.
Researchers are now studying the possibility that these changeable cells found in breast tissue may also be found in men.
They are also investigating whether similar cells may also be found in in other parts of the body such as skin, fat and blood.
The hope is this finding will one day enable doctors to harness the power of the body’s own patch kit to repair damaged organs, tissue and bones.