Embryonic mammary gland development is an intricate process that starts with the initial formation of the mammary milk line between the limb buds. These cells then coalesce along the line to form mammary buds, which will eventually become a mammary ductal tree that fills the mammary fat pad.
The mammary gland remains like this until puberty where hormones become the more dominant signal in mammary gland development. The molecular mechanisms involved in the initial formation of the mammary gland are not well known. Further, there are indications that these same molecular mechanisms play a dominant role during breast cancer and lung development.
Therefore, my lab is focused on studying molecular mechanisms at these stages, to further understanding in the field. Students' research projects are chosen to complement each other, so that we can build on the knowledge we acquire from our experiments.
Presently, we are focused on determining the role of cadherin-11 during mammary gland and lung development. Cadherin-11 is an adhesion molecule that has been implicated to play a role in the epithelial-mesenchymal transition in breast cancer, but its role during development is not well understood.