The development of mammary gland in blueberry-fed laboratory rats may aid in better breast cancer research, found study.
In an early study, Rosalia C. M. Simmen of the Arkansas Children's Nutrition Center (ACNC) in Little Rock, Ark., determined that several indicators of rat mammary gland health were improved in the offspring (pups) of mothers (dams) that had been fed 5 percent blueberry powder in their rations during pregnancy and during the weeks that they nursed their pups.
The powder comprised 5 percent of the total weight of the feed, according to Simmen, a senior investigator at the centre and a professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock.
Her team evaluated several structural indicators of normal mammary gland development in the lab animals, including branching of the gland.
There was significantly more branching in the offspring of the group that consumed the diet containing 5 percent blueberry powder than in offspring of dams fed rations containing 2.5 percent or 10 percent blueberry powder.
In their analysis of several biochemical indicators, the team found, for instance, that the level of the tumour-suppressing protein PTEN (phosphatase and tensin homolog deleted in chromosome 10) was significantly higher in mammary tissues of offspring of dams on the 5 percent regimen. That's a plus, because PTEN is thought to help protect against cancer.
Lab animal studies of blueberries' potential role in preventing breast cancer date to 2006.
But Simmen's investigation, published in Nutrition Research in 2009, provided the first evidence from a lab animal study of the early influence that the mother's blueberry consumption can have on normal, healthy development of the mammary gland in her offspring.
The findings have been published in the May/June 2011 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.