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Fetal Stage - 2

The tissue that we know of as the mammary gland (or udder or breast) may appear as relatively uncomplicated compared with some internal organs such as the heart or brain. The gland is outside the body wall, has a nipple or teat in most species, and has a series of ducts by which milk that is produced in microscopic blind tubes can be expressed from the gland. How can such a gland develop and what regulates that development? It turns out that the initial stage of development occurs extremely early in the fetal development of the animal. It then proceeds through a series of developmental phases, many of which are closely linked with the reproductive functioning of the animal, and eventually leading to the time when the gland is producing milk. Furthermore, the mammary gland is one of a few tissues that undergoes repeated cycles of development, functioning, regression, and redevelopment, again associated with the reproductive cycles of the animal. This module describes the various stages of mammary development and provides the framework for understanding how these stages relate to each other, as well as to the functionality of the gland.

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