Rillema, James A. Department of Physiology, School of Medicine, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan.
Last reviewed:August 2020
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A unique anatomical structure of mammals that secretes milk for the nourishment of the newborn. The mammary gland contains thousands of milk-producing units called alveoli, each of which consists of a unicellular layer of epithelial cells arranged in a spheroid structure (Fig. 1). The alveolar epithelial cells take up a variety of nutrients from the blood that perfuses the outer surface of the alveolar structures. Some of the nutrients are then secreted directly into the alveolar lumen; other nutrients are used to synthesize the unique constituents of milk which are then secreted. Each alveolus is connected to a duct through which milk flows. The ducts from many alveoli are connected via a converging ductal system which opens externally by way of the lactiferous pore (Fig. 2).
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