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Mammary gland

Mammary glands are the organs that, in the female mammal, produce milk for the sustenance of the young.

These exocrine glands are enlarged and modified sweat glands and are the characteristic of mammals which gave the class its name.

The basic components of the mammary gland are the alveoli (hollow cavities, a few millimetres large) lined with milk-secreting cuboidal cells and surrounded by myoepithelial cells.

These alveoli join up to form groups known as lobules, and each lobule has a lactiferous duct that drains into openings in the nipple.

The myoepithelial cells can contract, similar to muscle cells, and thereby push the milk from the alveoli through the lactiferous ducts toward the nipple, where it collects in widenings (sinuses) of the ducts.

As the infant begins to suckle, the hormonally mediated "let down reflex" ensues and the mother's milk is secreted into - not sucked from the gland by - the baby's mouth.

Note: This article excerpts material from the Wikipedia article "Mammary gland", which is released under the GNU Free Documentation License.

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