One in eighteen people have a third nipple according to a BBC report on September 1, 2005. (BBC)
Scaramanga is the name of a gene involved in breast development, and is named after the three-nippled James Bond villain, Francisco Scaramanga, in The Man With The Golden Gun. The gene is claimed to have opened doors on the fight against breast cancer, by relating the formation of breasts to breast cancer. “In the case of breasts, this process controls the development of two breasts in humans but this can go awry, resulting in fewer, extra or misplaced breasts or nipples.” (Science Daily) I initially wondered if this is related to why some girls have lopsided breasts, one is larger/smaller than the other. But I didn’t find the answer, instead I found this. Prof Ashworth said, "The Scaramanga gene does not influence why some women have larger breasts than others: this depends on the amount of fat in the breast." So we can assume that there won’t be one of those infomercials out there selling some amazing pill claiming, “Increase your breast size by taking this pill.”
I imagined the group of people on the Institute of Cancer Research team who found this gene. I can assume their conversation was along the lines of this upon discovering the gene.
”What should we call this gene?”
”Ugh… who knows someone famous with a third nipple?” (Laughter breaks out)
“What about that villain on that James Bond film?” (Silence)
“I like it.” (Much nods in the audience)
“Wasn’t his name… Scaramanga?” (Laughter breaks out, lasts 10 seconds longer)
“All in favor?” (Everyone raises their hands)
“The researchers, writing in the journal Genes and Development, said that the Scaramanga gene regulated the early stages of breast development and influenced the number and position of breasts. They said they realized the importance of the discovery when they found that the gene produced a protein called NRG3 and that this provides a signal telling embryonic cells to become breast cells.” (BBC) NRG3 is Neuregulin3. Identification of the Scaramanga gene implicates Neuregulin3 in mammary gland specification. The study used “positional cloning to narrow the interval containing Scaramanga to a 75.6-kb interval containing the distal part of the Neuregulin3 (Nrg3) gene. Within this region the only sequence difference between ska and wild-type mice is in a microsatellite repeat within intron 7.” (Pubmedcentral) This mambo-jumbo (if that’s how the saying goes) pretty much says that technicians will some day have the ability to grow mammary tissue in the lab, which can then be used for cosmetic surgery or for reconstructive surgery after breast cancer. There is hope for breast cancer victims. Well, maybe, if stem cell research is allowed to stay legal.
Just remember to check your third nipple for all the same abnormalities of regular breast tissue.