Updated: Jun 16, 2021
It’s about time that milk-making cells get the recognition they deserve.
Not to brag, but we’re kind of a big deal around here…..we’re the milk making cells after all! Without us, moms nor the BIOMILQ team would be able to produce milk. We might be tiny, but girl are we mighty.
K-18 (green) is a marker for BIOMILQ’s ‘cell’ebrities (MECs); the blue dots are the nuclei of the cells which have been stained green. Cells may differ in size during different stages of development.
To be a good mammary epithelial cell (MEC), we need to abide by our core values: be prolific, be secure, be committed, be discerning, and be expressive. Our caretakers, the BIOMILQ scientists, live by their core values: be brave, be determined, be conscientious, be resilient, and be authentic.
While our caretakers are pretty great, it’s about time we get the recognition we deserve — breakthrough mammary biotechnology wouldn’t be possible without us.
Like the BIOMILQ team, our work environment is dynamic, collaborative, and lively. To do our job, we play a game of telephone with biomolecules, such as hormones, that carry messages through our environment to keep things moovin’ and groovin’; our gossiping is also called signaling.
Before pregnancy-induced signals tell us demand for us is growing, a small number of us exist in the breast tissue waiting to be told how we’re needed. Once a baby is conceived, we know to quickly multiply, or proliferate; more cells means more milk, and more milk means more nutrition. At BIOMILQ, our caretakers provide signals that emulate pregnancy through the culture media they feed us, giving us the energy and building blocks to be prolific.
By the time the baby is born, we’ve built a community ready to nurture the baby through the production of thousands of components in our milk. Childbirth initiates a shift in hormone levels; when estrogen and progesterone drop, prolactin tells us to differentiate, or commit to being mammary epithelial cells. It’s go-time: time to be milk makers. Once we’ve started maturing as MECs, there’s no going back — we’ve committed to producing milk, and we’re all in!
Once committed, we know what we need to be our best, and when we find the right support, we form strong attachments to each other and our surroundings. Our caretakers have been working hard to recreate a ‘microenvironment’ outside the body that mimics the cozy feelings we get while at home in a human’s mammary glands, sort of like a well-equipped Airbnb. The well-stocked mini fridge full of cell culture media keeps us nourished and strong, mimicking the nutrients from a mother’s bloodstream. The polymer-based materials that make up our home away from home allow us to adhere to the surface so that we can feel secure, grow, and fulfill our purpose: make milk.
To feel even more secure, we arrange ourselves as a monolayer, like a group hug, rather than as a huddle like muscle cells. As a monolayer, we form tight junctions with each other to organize a structure that allows us to control what ends up in our milk. The food we need to do our job shouldn’t mix with the food we’re making for babies. By creating separate apical (top) and basal (bottom) compartments, we absorb nutrients from below us and secrete our milk above us. This cozy atmosphere allows us to be discerningand ensure that babies get nourished with milk and only milk.
Once prolactin has given our milk-making genes the green light, we express milk components through diverse mechanisms that give our milk its incredible complexity. We secrete proteins, sugars, fats, vitamins and minerals into our apical compartments where they mix together to create the milk babies love.
Our hard work is what makes BIOMILQ’s product have much of the nutrition of breastmilk.
**visuals courtesy of BIOMILQ**