Regardless of your stance on circumcision, some people choose to have it done, and that isn't a debate I'm interesting in getting into for the billionth time. But what I do want to talk about is where those foreskins go.
Unlike a lot of things, they're generally not tossed out with medical waste, and sometimes you even sign a release form for the selling of the skin when you consent to the circumcision (and you read the paper before you signed it so you know that, right?).
So, where exactly do these foreskins go?
First, you have to understand why they're used at all. Like embryonic stem cells, not all cells are fully "dedicated" or haven't fully developed their identifying proteins, meaning they haven't quite decided for good what they want to be when they grow up and therefore are much more versatile. This means that they can be used to help cultivate skin and skin byproducts (like collagen) with very little chance of rejection.
So with those foreskins, or more accurately, the fibroblasts from the cells of the foreskin, collagen can be lab-created, and where do you put collagen? On your face! Penis wrinkle cream, anyone? Oprah's beloved SkinMedica product? Yup! Foreskins! One foreskin can be used for decades to grow thousands of fibroblasts.
Another use for foreskins is to create bio-skin grafts for burn victims and ulcers and other large-area open wound sites. Apligraf and TransCyte are two well-known products that use embryonic or foreskin fibroblasts for creation of their bio-skin. One of the biggest risks for burn victims is entry of infection or stress to the body from the large open wound -- adding a temporary or even permanent real skin "band-aid" has shown amazing results in not only reducing complications and recovery time, but in even saving the lives of burn victims who otherwise had a very good likelihood of dying. It's used for open ulcers much in the same way, giving the body a live cell band-aid that it easily accepts.
A third use is cosmetic testing -- rather than using animals, a lot of companies pay thousands of dollars for one foreskin to begin replicating to perform their cosmetic tests on. Not only does this give much more accurate results since it's human skin, but it saves the lives of normally tortured animals. They also have discovered they can use "sick" skin the same way, replicating the sickness to help create formulas for specific sensitive skin types.
There's a lot of argument whether or not the whole promotion of benefits of circumcision, even proposed prophylatic benefits, is actually just a conspiracy to make money from the sales of foreskin. Arguments have also been made that that the foreskin should only be taken from still-birth infants, but again the arguments of "mutilation" and conspiracy of profit arise. But with all the amazing technology and lives saved and bodies healed from the unique cells a single foreskin can create, there's got to be a good common ground somewhere.
What do you think about foreskins being used to create bio-skin technology?
Image via Apligraf